Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Horse Called September
Anne Digby
Dobson Books Ltd. (UK)
St. Martin's (US, 1982)

When Anna Dewar is sent away to an exclusive boarding school, her best friend Mary Wilkins believes nothing will change between them. She takes care of Anna's talented horse September, awaiting the end of the school term and their summer vacation. But Anna's father is acting strangely, training September for a big horse show and losing his temper when the horse doesn't perform perfectly. In short order, September's lost his bright interest in jumping and Mr. Dewar is looking for a new horse for his daughter.

After many years of reading Brit books, I can just about decipher the scenario here, with the prosperous farmer being seen as a minor-league lord of the manor, his employees living in cottages for generations, and the idea that a career as a show jumper makes sense to two hard-headed farm workers. If I hadn't put in hard time with too many books good and bad to mention, I'd be at a loss for some of the storyline. But most of it isn't neccessary - it boils down to "Poor girl loses rich best friend to snobbery and helps a discarded horse make good." Frankly, the bit about the horse is all that's important. And September has a truly glorious comeback, despite the author's rush to get it over with. Some of it seems less than informed about horses - September is almost too human to be real. And the riding is rather hurried over, as if the author wasn't that comfortable with it. Her best moment comes not with a riding scene but with a truly horrifying rescue, the knacker leading September away while our heroine screams from behind a locked gate.

It's a brisk book, without a spare bit of writing. The horse is central though not onstage at all times, giving plenty of room for well-rounded human characters. But the horse drives the action, the heroine being consumed by her love for the horse. There is not much description, but what there is is striking, particularly the enormous obstacle Mr. Dewars builds to school September over. The language is plain, the dialogue believable.

Horse Show
Bourgie Parents
My Parents Aren't So Bad, After All
I'm a TROUBLED teen (but not like, you know, on heroin)
Where's that footman?

Other Books by the Author
Digby seems to be best-known for her boarding-school series called Trebizon, but she did writer at least one other horse book, The Quicksilver Horse.

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