PBOTD 17th September: Monica Edwards - Spirit of Punchbowl Farm
Spirit of Punchbowl Farm (1952) was one of the books that eluded during my childhood - I only managed to track it down about ten years ago. It carries on Monica Edwards' mixture of stern realism, and the clash between different approaches to the countryside as embodied by Dion and Lindsay, but it mixes fantasy with all this. When you farm land, it's difficult not to be aware of all the people who have looked after it before you, and this connection of the past is brought into the present through the Punchbowl characters experiencing time slips. It's as if the past is always there, but only very occasionally do events in the current world allow us to see it.
Monica Edwards only uses this connection with the past twice, in Black Hunting Whip, and here in Spirit of Punchbowl Farm. Yew trees are famed for their age, but also for their highly toxic nature. The only part of them that isn't poisonous is the berries. Animals will eat the fallen leaves, and they're fatal. Sure enough, cows die in Spirit of the Punchbowl, and Dion, though with a heavy heart, wants the yew cut down.
Lindsay is desperate to save it. This infuriates Dion.
“Dion had said that she was crazy, and that there was beauty everywhere in well-farmed lands and new buildings, but that she was too blind to see it.”
The yew tree acts as a connection between the present and all the different things that have affected the farm, and it's Lindsay, the sensitive, who sees this.
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Author Linda Newbery has written about her favourite pony book, Spirit of the Punchbowl, in my book Heroines on Horseback.
The Punchbowl Series
No Mistaking Corker
Black Hunting Whip
Spirit of Punchbowl Farm
Fire in the Punchbowl
The Wild One
More on Monica Edwards
Everything you ever wanted to know on Monica Edwards and her books: John Allsup's site