Sunday, 30 March 2014

PBOTD: 30th March, Katharine Hull and Pamela Whitlock - The Far Distant Oxus

The authors of The Far Distant Oxus (1937), Katharine Hull and Pamela Whitlock, wrote the book when they were teenagers themselves. They sent the manuscript off to Arthur Ransome, author of the Swallows and Amazons books. He was so impressed by the book he persuaded his publishers, Jonathan Cape, to publish it, announcing "I’ve got this year’s best children’s book under my arm.”

Jonathan Cape, 1937, first edition
The Far-Distant Oxus isn't a classic pony book, but it's important as a book which helped define the change the genre underwent in the 1930s. It's a book full of adventure, and was one of the growing number of books where the focus was on the child and its adventures, rather than the pony.

Collins, 1960
Nevertheless, the book doesn't take long before it lets you know just what is important to Bridget, Frances and Anthony:
"'The ponies!' shouted Bridget, pulling back the stable door and gazing with adoring eyes at the long line of flickering tails."

Armada, paperback, 1971
Although there are some lyrical descriptions of the joy of riding - "You heavenly pony. There is only you and me in the world...." the ponies are not the centre of this world. They're companions, and enablers in adventure. The Far Distant Oxus could have happened quite easily (though rather more slowly) without the ponies, but they made the adventure richer.
Fidra paperback, 2008
The Far Distant Oxus was first published by Jonathan Cape in 1937. It was reprinted in this edition several times. Collins reprinted the book several times: the first in 1960, I think is lightly abridged. The next edition I believe returned to the original text. Collins' paperback arm, Armada, produced an edition of the book in 1971 with a photographic cover. I do not know whether this was abridged. The most recent edition was published by Fidra Books in 2008 as a large format paperback. They have recently brought the book back into print again.

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For more on the authors, see their page on my website.

2 comments:

Liz Broomfield said...

Ooh - I'd forgotten this one, an excellent read!

janebadgerbooks said...

Not as well known as they ought to be! I think in recent decades they've become unfashionable, which is a shame. It would be great if the other two were republished.