I don't think I'm going to be sharing anything very new today with you. How many of you have already read K.M. Peyton's The Flambards? Maybe it's a book you read growing up, or you saw the film adaptation (check out Flying Dreams for more about the adaptation)? I bought an old Penguin edition at a library sale ages ago. I was drawn to the setting, which is England during WWI. Here is the blurb on my copy:
"This haunting trilogy, set in the years surrounding the First World War, is the story of Christina, and of a house and its inhabitants that became a part of her life."
"Years which contain a dramatic and unpredictable mixture of passion and cruelty, as the old world of hunting and horse transport passes into the challenging new era of the early flying machines."
It won the Guardian award in 1970. And it has been patiently (like so many of my other books in my little book room) waiting its turn on my night table. Now I wouldn't have thought to look for this book in my library's stacks. And it wouldn't have even been something I would have happened upon in my regular wanderings in the "P" call numbers. I had no idea that it is actually a YA novel, or at least that is how it is categorized in my library and seems to be marketed these days.
Yesterday when I mentioned Women and Children First: The Fiction of Two World Wars, I had already started leafing through the book scanning for books I recognized or that simply caught my eye, and there it was, a mention of The Flambards.
"An upper-middle-class girl who has all the traditional qualities of a heroine is Christina Parsons in K.M. Peyton's Flambards trilogy: Flambards (1966); The Edge of the Cloud (1969); Flambards in Summer (1969). Christina is endowed with courage, determination, power, sexual attractiveness and ultimately wealth--a combination that might easily have been disastrous in terms of subtlety or realism. Two books moreover, have a lush setting: an ancestral mansion in the Essex countryside, overgrown with fungus, disintegrating, reeking of dogs and horses and cluttered with the paraphernalia of hunting. Add to this the facts that Christina is a female orphan of strong character and that the era is late Edwardian and Georgian, and we have all the ingredients for vapid romantic fiction. K.M. Peyton, certainly, has a firm understanding of popular requirements, and in the novels' optimistic conclusions, the triumph of feeling over convention, there is apparent a wish to accede to the more facile expectations of the reader. But that is not the whole picture."
The authors go on to call Peyton a competent storyteller with a cautious good sense that stops any obvious "inflation". Both Peyton and her book Flambards remind me of Irish author Molly Keane (M.J. Farrell). Peyton began writing when she was very young and published her first book when she was fifteen. Although she lived in London and didn't have a horse, she had a love of them, and her early books had girls with ponies. As a child I never did get into horse stories, but I do like the sound of Flambards. As Keane's novels heavily feature hunting and riding, I'm curious to know how they compare. My library only owns the first two books in the trilogy, but my Penguin edition has all three novels in one.
I like the quote from Daily Express on the back cover: "Rousing grand old tale of arrogant landowners and their spunky ladies". You can never have enough rousing tales or books with spunky ladies.