Monday, 14 April 2014

PBOTD 14th April: Diana Pullein-Thompson - The Pennyfields

Today's pony book is one you quite possibly haven't read. The Pennyfields (1947) was published twice in paperback form by Armada in the 1960s, and that was its lot. It was Diana’s least successful book. The Pennyfields moves away from the first person portrayal of a solitary girl with which she was most at home, and features a large family, bursting with characters. Chaotic and ebullient, the Pennyfields are short of money (in the traditional pony book sense only; the children go away to school, have a large house and a housekeeper, but they lack money for frills). They are trying to earn enough to buy a pony and a shotgun. They already have a donkey
Collins, 1949, 1st edition
 It's rather a frustrating book to read: the family’s schemes are doomed never to work out quite as they should. Their efforts to provide a removal service are almost scuppered by their disobedient donkey, and their transport service comes within a whisker of being wrecked by the spectacularly tactless younger sister Jennet. After a very little while, there is a dreadful inevitability about much of it: an interesting event pops up, only to end in predictable disaster, caused by one or other of this family who have little in the way of redeeming (or differentiating) features.
Armada paperback 1964, cover Peter Archer
The book ends with swift and unbelievable coincidence: the requisite ponies – two in fact – are granted to the family to ride right at the end of the book, as a reward for retrieving a necklace, and a couple of pages further on, more ponies are promised as the children’s father has had a rise in salary. 

Armada paperback 1964, cover Peter Archer, variant edition
This whirlwind of equine acquisition sits rather oddly with the struggles the book has been concerned with up until then. The Pennyfields has not found favour with fans of the genre: pony book aficionado Barbara Mclintock said “It is not only that I didn't find the characters likeable (although I didn't), but for some reason which I can't quite fathom, I didn't find them realistic either. They just never came across to me as a real family.”

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For much, much more on Diana Pullein-Thompson, see her page on my website.

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