Tuesday, 25 March 2014

PBOTD, 25th March: Marjorie Mary Oliver - Riding Days in Hook's Hollow

Marjorie Mary Oliver was one of the earliest writers to produce a story which focused on children rather than ponies. Her first three books, The Ponies of Bunts (1933), Sea Ponies (1935) and Ponies and Caravans (1941) are loosely connected paeans to the beauties of the countryside and its healing qualities.

Country Life, 1944, 1st edition, illus Stanley Lloyd
The Hook's Hollow series, of which Riding Days in Hook's Hollow (1944) was the first, dropped the photographic illustrations ("from Jenefer's camera") that were used in her first three books. I can only speculate as to why: perhaps Jenefer's camera was broken; perhaps the photographs didn't illustrate the events of the book clearly enough, or perhaps they simply weren't popular. Stanley Lloyd, a well known equine illustrator was used for the first two books, and Charlotte Hough for the third.

Heroine Catherine Blakeney is another of Marjorie Mary Oliver's meek and timid children. She has come to stay with her grandmother (enough to terrify anyone, in my opinion). Catherine is shy, terrified of ponies, and is completely overwhelmed by the spectacularly named Wake and Torfreda Conway. Under their influence, she does, of course, overcome her fears, and learn to ride.

Like Oliver's previous books, this one has plenty of adults in it, who haven't been conveniently shunted off out of the way. There's even a little romance, as well as noble self sacrifice. Uncle Peter finds out his beloved Helen is not married after all:

"Just then they heard the gate from the wood slam, and there was Uncle Peter, running across the paddock like a boy. He vaulted the garden gate and burst into the cottage shouting: "Helen! Helen!" till his voice was drowned in the baying of the dogs. 
The three children gazed solemnly but excitedly at one another. Catherine was the first to break the silence.  
"So Miss Carlyon is going to be happy after all," she said."

Fortunately, as Miss Carlyon is of conventional tastes, and not one who'd be pleased because the baying of the dogs indicated they'd eaten Uncle Peter, she is.

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Riding Days in Hook's Hollow was first published by Country Life in 1944, and was illustrated by Stanley Lloyd. The book had at least one reprint that I know of, but it retained the same cover.

For more on Marjorie Mary Oliver, she has a page on my website.

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