PBOTD 24th November: Florence Hightower - The Dark Horse of Woodfield

I really must re-read this - writing about it reminds me of how much I like it. You have to love a book which opens with the heroine forgetting herself and neighing in class.

Dark Horse of Woodfield (1962) is the story of the Armistead family. They used to be fabulously wealthy, but the Great Depression of the 1930s has hit them catastrophically hard. They're not bowed down by it, despite the difficulty they have in surviving from day to day. They meet the challenge with gusto. All of them have plenty of schemes to make money, including the neighing schoolgirl, Maggie.

She wants to enter her mare, Stardust, in the Unior Hunter Stakes, but she knows she has to earn the entry fee herself. To Maggie's surprise, it's the one member of the family who wasn't keen on horses, Great-Uncle Wally, who eventually provides the key.

The whole book is bursting with brilliant characters: it's a great ensemble piece. There's Bugsy and his caterpillars, and Elizabeth binding on and on and on about her boyfriend (and then his stuttering incoherence when we finally meet this paragon). The book isn't a conventional horsey story by any means, but horses, and the love of them are interwoven throughout the various plotlines. And it's very funny.

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More on Florence Hightower


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