Review: Sweet Running Filly - Pat Johnson & Barbara van Tuyl

Pat Johnson & Barbara van Tuyl - Sweet Running Filly
Poppet Press, 2010.  £7.00

Information on the authors

The much loved Bonnie series has now been reprinted by the Poppet Press, an offshoot of Somerset Sport Art. A proportion of the proceeds are being donated to Thoroughbred charities, although the one mentioned on their website, Standing in the Gap, has now closed.   I asked Poppet Press who they were currently supporting, and this is their reply:
Currently, we are planning special events that will benefit individual charities in that area and are searching for charities to support. In the past we have done events with The Florida TB Fillies and Horses N Heroes of Marion County will be selling the books to benefit their charity this year.  
Sweet Running Filly is another book I've had hanging around for a while, but I finally got round to reading it at the end of last week.  I feel like I'm now going to criticise someone's beloved child, as I know how loved this series is in the USA.  Although I liked the book,  I felt curiously short changed by it.  The beginning is really strong:  I loved the father and daughter relationship, and their unorthodox way of earning a living, and I lapped up the episode where the filly is rescued.

Oh brilliant, I thought.  There's so much in this relationship between father and daughter; the writing is wonderful; there's all sorts of places this story can go!  And what happens?  The filly is rescued, and the father virtually disappears from view until the end of the book.  Action switches to a local racing stable, and a fairly conventional mystery - will the filly's true identity be revealed?  And what happened to bring her to the miserable wreck she was when Julie found her?  It isn't that this is in any way badly done, because it isn't.  It isn't that I didn't believe in the characters, because I did.  From the quality of the beginning of the story, I expected something to rival K M Peyton's Fly-by-Night, but sadly, this book wasn't it.  I wonder if it's something to do with the book's dual authorship:  perhaps one of them was keener on character and the other on the racing side?

I would happily read the first few chapters over and over again:  they are a seriously good piece of writing.  There are four more books in the series, and I'd like to read them.  Maybe I'd be able to approach those for what I expect they are:  good, believable stories about a girl, her horse, and racing.

A last word on the text: as regular readers will know, I am keen on published texts being accurate.  This book has presumably been printed from a scanned copy of the original, and unfortunately this has left it littered with errors.  If the Press reprints, employing a decent proof reader would be an excellent idea.


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