As a non-horse person despite avid reading of assorted pony books as a youngster, I was glad to find good quality writing in this novel right from the very beginning – just what one might hope for from the Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Thousand Acres. And sure enough, I enjoyed my read through the trials and tribulations of rearing and training boy horses, all called George, and girl horses called Jewel, and a baby horse called Jack. I even learned to call them geldings and mares.
The side stories of young trainer Abby’s difficulties with her school friends – the inevitable ‘new girl’ who upsets the apple cart until she gets her come-uppance – and her strict, religious parents were easily enough absorbed into the text too, counterpoint to her relationship with the horses.
And I expect young, serious-minded pony-lovers will enjoy it too. They might not notice that it is set in 1965 (for no reason I could determine) and they will love the wealth of precise detail about how to understand and train horses. Just as children could (and indeed have) learned to sail by reading Arthur Ransome’s books, they could learn how to rear horses from this one.
However, despite being well enough told to keep the attention, the story never quite flies, Smiley’s enthusiasm for horses not given wing. Further volumes are expected.