Yes, yes, I know, I sign up for #20BooksOfSummer then I read books that aren’t on my list. Tut, tut. But look, one of them is a really short pony book and the other is part of my “Read all of the Forsyte Saga in 2015” thing and I was already reading it when I decided to do 20Books. And there is some 20Books news at the end of this post, anyway … So, two books that basically have nothing in common, except I think “The Silver Spoon” might mention a racehorse or two. Oh well!
Josephine Pullein-Thompson – “Race Horse Holiday”
(28 February, from Verity)
The lovely Verity sent me this one, and was one I didn’t have. I do love the P-T sisters’ books but I still have a patchy collection – and I imagine this is part of a series, although it might be a standalone.
Anyway, in a slightly more modern pony book under the Armada imprint (pony books stopped for a while and are now A Thing again, with more sparkles this time round), Vivien and Jon are packed off to stay at a racing stables belonging to a family friend while their parents conveniently jet off to Russia. Their host’s elder daughter, Angela, is a bit older than them and very much more into clothes and boys than they expected, and there’s a fair bit of description of floaty, cheesecloth tops and masses of inappropriate jewellery (which is the bit that makes this 1971 novel more of a modern one, as all of the characters in these books are usually reliably horse-mad).
Of course, there’s a bit of a mystery to solve, and some lurking around in horseboxes trying to discover The Truth and misapprehending things horribly. There’s also a lovely description of what it’s like to ride a racehorse (on an exercise trip) after spending most of your time on hairy ponies. There’s lots of stableyard politics, too, with one boy getting a bad name for himself and, of course, only our heroes able to save him. Or should they even try to? It’s nicely done with a Jill-like sense of humour and the story, of course, works well.
This book fills in another year in my Reading A Century project – 1971 done and dusted and I’m ALMOST half-way through the challenge now!
This book will suit anyone who read(s) pony books, then or now. You can’t go wrong with a Pullein-Thompson sister!
John Galsworthy – “The Silver Spoon”
The completely and utterly middle volume of the nine books in the complete Forsyte Saga, so we’re over half way through now (wah!). We remain with Fleur and Michael and their respective fathers, plus a new dog (the demise of the Peke is off-stage). Fleur is busy establishing herself as a Society hostess and collecting people as ever, while Michael is working his way through the first stages of being a new Member of Parliament, unfortunately having espoused a rather crackpot political ideology known as Foggartism, which isn’t very popular and makes him less so, even leading to a disastrous attempt at a practical application of the theory, which ends in chaos and notoriety, naturally, all on account of him not knowing his own beliefs firmly enough.
When Bright Young Thing Marjorie Ferrars insults Fleur in her own home, at her own party, and both Soames and Fleur retaliate, with a comeback at the time and some somewhat catty and indiscreet letters, respectively, Soames weighs in after the fact and sirs things up, leading to all sorts of embarrassment and the chance for the author to pick over “the new morality” and issues around censorship of fiction. Meanwhile, Jon Forsyte’s American brother-in-law manages to get himself mixed up with both sides, and an old danger rears its head, too.
Galsworthy appears to relish painting his portraits of high society and political circles, especially perhaps Marjorie and her colourful in appearance and character grandfather. It’s interesting seeing the familiar Forsytes set against these new backgrounds, too, and this aspect of the book, and the way in which characters are interlinked, can’t help but remind me of the “A Dance to the Music of Time” novel sequence. We also get a good meditation on the pull between public office and private life, as Fleur becomes restive and can’t see that Michael is trying to take his political career seriously.
It was also interesting to read this book at this particular time in history, when the parallels between what was happening in the mid-1920s and what is happening now, societally and politically, seem quite startling. The ordinary people are only concerned with what directly touches their money and employment and have become disenchanted with politics and politicians, seeing them as disconnected from the everyday concerns of the standard person on the street, and able to do nothing about the rising poverty and unemployment, and it’s left to the somewhat batty outsiders to offer practical solutions which just won’t work.
The interlude, “Passers By”, sees some of our characters travelling, and there are some more Powell-like encounters where people are not expected to be. I can’t reveal more without giving out spoilers, but I can say that this does give a nice additional aspect to the story, and I don’t think I’ve read any but the first trilogy’s-worth of interludes before.
This book will suit … well, it’s not really a standalone, but the series as a whole will suit anyone who likes a family saga or who is interested in society and politics of the early to mid 20th century, seen from the perspective of the upper middle class.
In exciting 20BooksOfSummer news, I have finished my first book in the challenge, “Patricia Brent, Spinster”, and am on to the next one. But you’ll have to wait a few days for those reviews, I’m afraid. I am noticing that I’ve picked up books I might have bypassed for just one more from the TBR, so it does appear to be working!
If you’re reading the Forsytes along with us, how are you doing?