Monday, 19 May 2014

PBOTD 19th May: H M Peel - Jago

H M Peel lived in Australia as a young woman, and so found plenty of background for her Australian horse stories. Three of her books: Fury, Jago and Untamed, are set in Australia. Hazel went to Australia at the age of 21, having worked with horses since she left school. The attraction of working with them had worn off:

“I became fed up with the long hours and slave wages, so went back to London, living in a hostel at King’s Cross.... travelled Europe, and when I was 21 I decided I wanted to see more of the world so applied to go to Australia as a migrant on their two-year scheme.  I went by myself of course, with no money to my name to speak of, and was flabbergasted when on sailing down the Suez Canal on Valentine’s Day I met a man and knew he was the one and only.  We married in Australia."

Harrap, 1966, 1st edition, illus Sheila Rose
Hazel and her husband worked their way around Australia for three and a half years, doing any job they could. While they were there, the wool clip had failed, and unemployment was very high. It was while they were living in Australia that Hazel's first short story, Pit of Fear, was published. 
 
Armada, pb, 1973
Giete, pb, 2011
Most of the horses Hazel writes about present problems, and some of them are out and out rogues. Jago was definitely one. Under a different regime, and broken in thoughtfully, he would have been what he was intended to be, a champion race horse, but he's broken in with violence. Jago responds with violence, and eventually breaks free, and has to make his own way in the outback.

I think this is probably one of the first books I read which made me think what it was like to be a horse, rather than looking at them from the rider's point of view. It's good the book is available again now: it was, and is, a considerable departure from the usual pony book. 

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