PBOTD 12th September: Patricia Leitch - Ride Like the Wind

Ride Like the Wind is about courage: the courage to go on doing what terrifies you; the courage to break away and try and make your way of life work instead of going down the route of convention. It's also about bullying, and what it does to you.

We meet a new character in this book: Kat Dalton. She and her family have come to stay for the summer near Finmory, and Kat has brought her beautiful black mare Lightning with her. Kat wants to event, and so she arranges to have lessons with Miss Tuke, lessons which Jinny will attend too.

Kat is one of the most tragic figures in the Jinny series. When she meets Jinny, we think, as Jinny does, that we've met another spoiled rich girl, who gets her kicks from taunting those who don't have as much as she does. She's certainly deeply unpleasant to Jinny when she invites her to lunch. Jinny's initial reaction is to want nothing to do with Kat, but she can't resist the joy of doing cross country on Shantih, and so she persists with Kat.

And very soon she realises that Kat is utterly, and completely, petrified of cross country, despite her boasts that she will win Badminton on her push button horse. It takes a while before Jinny learns why Kat persists in doing what terrifies her: her step father despises what he sees as her cowardice, and he taunts her with it, humiliating her, and yet she keeps going back for more, trying ever more desperately to impress someone we know cannot be impressed, because he does not want to be impressed by Kat. He wants to torment her. And he does.

Kat says, at the end of the book, that it's for his money that she stays around her stepfather (poor Kat: first her mother deserted her, and then her father, leaving her with Helen, who then remarried Paul Dalton). I wonder if she does, or if this is just bravado, because there's something so peculiarly desperate about Kat's pursuit to be thought brave. Paul Dalton's approval is the nearest thing she's going to get to love: and the tragedy is that she'll never get it. Kat is one of the characters I wonder about most in the Jinny series: what did she go on to do? Did she manage to throw off the shackles, or did she limp through adult life, cannoning from relationship to relationship, condemned to seek approval from those who would never give it?

And the dreadful irony of course is that Kat is brave: because true bravery lies in facing your fears, and that's what Kat does, over and over again.

Jinny does not have Kat's horrors over cross country, so sails around in complete contrast to her, but she does have her own fears, which she has to face at the end of the book when she and Shantih almost drown saving Kat, who has tried, through one last terrible act, to impress Mr Dalton. Jinny also has to face up to the fear of losing Finmory when her father's latest book is rejected, and Nell, his main buyer for his pots, sells up. Mr Manders, does, in the end, face the fear of the unknown, and the unconventional path.

One thing that  dates this book is that when Mr Dalton taunts Kat with her so-called cowardice with appalling viciousness, he does it in full sight and hearing of the other competitors, but no one does a thing. Jinny is horrified, and it's clear the other spectators are too, but that's as far as it goes. Kat is left alone to fact what we know will be a torment which will continue until she leaves home; if she ever does.  This is something which also crops up in Horse in a Million: the tinker Jake arrives back while Jinny and Sue are talking to the rest of the tinkers about the disappearance of Shantih and the Highlands. He fells one of the women with a blow. Jinny is horrified by the blow, and shuts her eyes to avoid seeing what she knows is coming, but that's all that happens. It's not commented on. Jake obviously rules by violence, but nothing is done to make him stop.

If people wonder how the horrors of the seventies so much in the news happened, this I think gives you your answer. Abuse went on, but it wasn't checked. It simply wasn't the way of the world. Thank goodness it is now.

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The Jinny Series
For Love of a Horse
A Devil to Ride
The Summer Riders
Night of the Red Horse
Gallop to the Hills
Horse in a Million
The Magic Pony
Ride Like the Wind
Chestnut Gold
Jump for the Moon
Horse of Fire
Running Wild

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