PBOTD 14th September: Patricia Leitch - Jump for the Moon

Warning - contains spoilers

Throughout the Jinny series, we've seen Jinny wrestle with the nature of possession. Her deepest, darkest fear is that Shantih will be taken away from her. She's never felt secure in her possession of her horse. At the opening of Jump for the Moon, Jinny has learned that the circus from where Shantih came is due back. Worse, the ring master was interviewed on the radio, and has said he wants Shantih. Desperate to avoid coming across the circus wagons returning to Inverburgh, Jinny rides Shantih back to Finmory along the main road. In a dreadful irony, it's through this decision that she exposes herself to the very real possibility of Shantih going, because she's seen from a bus by a man who recognises her as Wildfire, stolen from her breeder years ago. And they track Jinny down.

Patricia Leitch often introduces other characters whose lives act as a contrast with Jinny's. In Chestnut Gold, Jinny is given the task of looking after a new girl at school, simply because they both have horses. Except Nicola Webster is further along the route of losing her horse than Jinny. Her parents have split up. She and her mother no longer have a comfortable, monied lifestyle. The only asset remaining to them after her father's business folded, and he left them, is her horse, brilliant showjumper Brandon. He has to be sold: at the moment he's still living with  Nicola's aunt, while he's advertised for sale.

Nick's approach is radically different to Jinny's. At first, she bombards Jinny with a welter of lies about her and Brandon, and how they're simply waiting for her father to find a new house before they all move back in together. But Nick doesn't keep this up, and she faces the sale of Brandon with stern practicality. It has to happen, and so she gets on with it. Nick's one dream in life is to ride professionally - and it's obvious she could do it - but she has to say farewell to this as well as to Brandon.

Jinny's wild fears about the circus are soon revealed to be exactly that, but Shantih is Wildfire. She is that stolen mare, and she still belongs to her breeder, Mrs Raynor. When the worst happens, Jinny doesn't resort to wild flight over the moors, taking Shantih with her. Mrs Raynor agrees to come and see Shantih for herself at the Ardair Show. Jinny will finally achieve her pony book dream of glory: the Ardair Show is far bigger than anything she's attempted before, and she wants to go out in a blaze of glory; to have one last, golden memory of Shantih blazing triumphantly round the course before Jinny hands her back. When she achieves the pony book dream, at the same time Jinny will be denying it: because after then she will no longer have her horse. They won't ride into that golden, gymkhana-filled sunlight together.

We see Jinny growing up more in this book: she recognises the differences between her and Nick, and realises that Nick's way has something to recommend it; that the face you present to the world doesn't have to reflect exactly what's going on underneath. Sometimes you need that mask. And Jinny finally reconciles herself to school: a condition her father imposes before he pays for Jinny to be a Junior member of the BSJA is that she'll be in the top ten in the class exams. Jinny decides that she'll do this, but Jinny being Jinny says "I've got to improve, so I may as well be top." And she is. And finds that, when she pays attention, the work is actually interesting.

The end of the book reduces me to tears: Jinny hands Shantih over to Mrs Raynor. She simply does it, with no fanfare, able at last to let Shantih go, but Mrs Raynor, breeder of Arabs, who lives for their fire and beauty, gives Shantih back. If you're a child of the eighties, do you remember those inspirational posters that were the thing in the early years of the decade? There was one that said "If you love something, let it go. If it's really yours, it'll come back to you." I thought then, and think now, that there is a good deal of tosh in that statement because the thing that you love is presumably a sentient being with its own thoughts and opinions, and therefore when you let it go, it might well stay let, but I do think the first bit's right. It's right not to hold on to things with tooth and claw, and I love the way Jinny does this. 

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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

More on Patricia Leitch


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