Review: Jessica Naomi Rise - After the Pony Club

I’ve had this lurking on the Kindle for a while, but had forgotten about it until I was sitting at the vet’s with the cat. It’s a continuation of Josephine Pullein-Thompson’s Noel and Henry series, and as you’d expect from the title, looks at what happens now they’re at that interesting period between a secure school-based existence, and making their own lives. And thereby, I think, hangs whether you’re going to like this book or not. If you wonder what characters would be like outside the confines of a children’s book, then give this a go. I enjoyed it. If you’re not a fan of the Chalet Girls Grow Up kind of fanfic, which takes a set of beloved characters and gives them anything but the cosy existence they have in the books, then you’ll hate it.

The action centres around the Holbrookes’ house again, over the Christmas holidays. Dick is back from Oxford, and finds his father has sold his pony, Crispin, brutally, and without letting him know, for meat. Noel is doing some rather desultory riding reaching, and Henry is on leave from the Army. John is farming, and Susan is living at home, not doing a great deal apart from being irritated by her family. It soon becomes clear that there’s quite a lot more going on than that. Susan is unsure how much she likes John; Henry knows just how much he likes Noel, but something seems to have gone wrong somewhere. And Dick, poor Dick, is devastated by the loss of Crispin, and it is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Without giving too much away, it’s Dick’s situation that you’ll need to swallow wholeheartedly if you’re going to have any sympathy with what the author has done, for Dick is struggling, and he is the pivot around which everything else turns.

While I’m on the subject of Dick I was surprised that his riding ability seems to have taken a dive, which is odd when he’s considered one of the more capable riders in the series.

But other than that, the author does a good job of making the characters sound authentically themselves, but just a little older. I particularly enjoyed Rose’s portrayal of their shifting perceptions of how they should live their lives, and that I think is the book’s greatest strength, because I didn’t doubt for one second that the characters would behave in the way she has them do.

If you do decide to take the plunge, let me know what you think: I’d love to know. 

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Unknown said…
Well I loved it and read it almost at a sitting, completely ignoring painting, housework and Dave's and my evening meal!
I do seem to be in the minority though. Yes there are a few errors, dogs instead of hounds springs to mind, but I found it very believable, apart from Dick. He seemed one of the most solid, dependable characters and his riding was capable. I thought Henry would have been more believable as someone with a crisis......
I am hoping she is writing a sequel.
Jane Badger said…
Thanks Fiona - I found it very readable too, despite the errors. I absolutely see what you mean about Henry being the one more likely to crack, though NR does show him as having some problems coping when life springs him stuff he doesn't expect. I guess with Dick it's true that we don't know what's going on in someone's life, and how it affects them later, but perhaps the book could have had a bit more of a preamble into why Dick collapses so completely with the loss of Crispin.
Cathie Menzies said…
I read this a month or so back and enjoyed it too, so much so that I went back and re-read the original pony club team. It was a bit sad in that it reflected real life rather well with pony mad kids losing touch with horses when the grow up. Hopefully they all turned back into horse mad senior citizens as they grew older.
Jane Badger said…
It will be interesting to see - I'm not sure if she's planning another one. Let's hope so, particularly as the book was left on a bit of a cliffhanger, which does argue that something else is in her imagination, at least.
Liz Fairbrother said…
I absolutely loved this and it makes me want to go back and re read the children's books. The characters and their interest in their ponies/horses really takes me back to my teenage years which was about the same time but also strikes a chord now where as an adult I have friends who still play ponies and with whom I can talk about horses and riding. I think as an adult, horses are more important to me than at any time after my teenage years, although I have always had them. I think the book resonates me too because of that. I do hope there is a sequel.

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