I’ve had this lurking on the Kindle for a while, but had forgotten about it until I was sitting at the vet’s with the cat. It’s a continuation of Josephine Pullein-Thompson’s Noel and Henry series, and as you’d expect from the title, looks at what happens now they’re at that interesting period between a secure school-based existence, and making their own lives. And thereby, I think, hangs whether you’re going to like this book or not. If you wonder what characters would be like outside the confines of a children’s book, then give this a go. I enjoyed it. If you’re not a fan of the Chalet Girls Grow Up kind of fanfic, which takes a set of beloved characters and gives them anything but the cosy existence they have in the books, then you’ll hate it.
The action centres around the Holbrookes’ house again, over the Christmas holidays. Dick is back from Oxford, and finds his father has sold his pony, Crispin, brutally, and without letting him know, for meat. Noel is doing some rather desultory riding reaching, and Henry is on leave from the Army. John is farming, and Susan is living at home, not doing a great deal apart from being irritated by her family. It soon becomes clear that there’s quite a lot more going on than that. Susan is unsure how much she likes John; Henry knows just how much he likes Noel, but something seems to have gone wrong somewhere. And Dick, poor Dick, is devastated by the loss of Crispin, and it is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Without giving too much away, it’s Dick’s situation that you’ll need to swallow wholeheartedly if you’re going to have any sympathy with what the author has done, for Dick is struggling, and he is the pivot around which everything else turns.
While I’m on the subject of Dick I was surprised that his riding ability seems to have taken a dive, which is odd when he’s considered one of the more capable riders in the series.
But other than that, the author does a good job of making the characters sound authentically themselves, but just a little older. I particularly enjoyed Rose’s portrayal of their shifting perceptions of how they should live their lives, and that I think is the book’s greatest strength, because I didn’t doubt for one second that the characters would behave in the way she has them do.
If you do decide to take the plunge, let me know what you think: I’d love to know.