Wednesday, 2 April 2014

PBOTD: 2nd April, Mary Gervaise - Ponies and Holidays

Mary Gervaise had a particular talent as an author: although she produced children's stories which fitted neatly into popular genre fiction categories, she still managed to concentrate on what interested her most: families, and the outsider. 

Mary Gervaise was one of the pseudonyms used by Joan Mary Wayne Brown (1906-1998). Her own school career was brief, being brought to an end by ill health. She began to write, and produced 66 books as Mary Gervaise. Many of them are school stories, but there is among them a percentage which can just about be categorised as pony books. Her Belinda and Farthingale series contain ponies, but the most pony-orientated of her books is the G for Georgia series.

I featured the first, A Pony of Your Own, in an earlier PBOTD. In it, Georgia overcomes her fears, goes to a splendid school which has riding on the curriculum, and gets given a pony in the final pages of the book. Although nominally set at school, remarkably little of the book's action takes place there. Mary Gervaise seemed to take every opportunity to get her characters out of school. Out of a ten book school series, only four of them are set during term time.

Lutterworth 1st edition,1950, illus E Herbert Whydale
The second, Ponies and Holidays (1950) is set, as the title suggests, in the holidays. Mary Gervaise did like an outsider, and in Patience she has one. Patience has lived with her elderly guardian for as long as she can remember, and starts school at The Grange. She is like a survival from another age: her clothes, her manners and her speech are all from another century.

Georgia Kane, the series' heroine, is an essentially kind girl, and she takes Patience under her wing. When the holidays arrive, Patience comes home with Georgia, and her friend Susan, whose parents are off doing other things. She is absorbed into the family, but strange things start to happen.

Armada paperback, 1970
Georgia's beloved ginger cat, King Toby, disappears. And then the Kane family meet Patience on a horse, but she cuts them completely dead. They do not understand it. This was always my favourite book of the series: I loved the blank incomprehension of the Kanes as "Patience" ignores them, and I loved the way the long lost twin is found (sadly having been captured as a baby by gypsies, who tend in pony books to lead a prescribed and stereotyped life).

Patience is returned to her birth family, with a large house, plenty of money, and all the ponies she could want. I wonder how many of us wondered, having read this, if we were actually changelings, and our true parents (complete of course with rows of immaculate stables, filled with splendid horses) would soon come and claim us? It certainly added a new dimension to the pony-owning fantasy.

Ponies and Holidays
was first published by Lutterworth in 1950, and was illustrated by E Herbert Whydale. This edition had at least one reprint. The next, and last reprint, was an Armada edition that appeared in 1970, with a photographic cover.

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For more on the author, see her page on my website.

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