Saturday, 29 September 2007

Review: DIANA - Only A Pony

Only A Pony is the final book in the Augusta/Christina series. Interestingly, this is published much later than the earlier series, and like most of the P-T's later books, the first edition is a paperback. I Wanted a Pony was first published in 1946, Three Ponies and Shannan was published in 1947 and A Pony To School was first published in 1950. It is rather strange to think that Only A Pony was first published in 1980, some 30 years after the last offering. Perhaps Armada put pressure on Diana to come up with an new pony book (as apart from the Pony Seekers series, and The Long Ride Home) this was one of the last books she wrote. Or maybe Diana had some fondness for Christina and Augusta, and wanted to, albeit briefly, revive them? Maybe more was planned but as the gap had been so long between the rest of the series that people didnt share the same fondness for them and this was not the same success commercially as the previous books?

Maybe also it is a P-T trait (or even a twin trait), there is a gap of 15 years between Christine's Phantom Horse and the subsequent book in the series Phantom Horse Comes Home? Josephine did not suffer from that trait, although in her series there are a couple of gaps, nothing as long as those two.

This book is not illustrated. 

The blurb reads:-

"Who's there?" cried Christina.

Moonlight shone through the stable window, Lucifer gave a low growl and, trembling, I raised the poker. Then our hearts missed a beat. Staring at us with an expression of interest was a small roan pony.

Also hidden in the stable is Nico, a young boy who has run away from home to save his pony from a cruel horse dealer. Augusta and Christina agree to help him, but soon find themselves on the wrong side of the law, and heading for danger...

The book begins with Christina and Augusta being left alone, with the exception of Mignon, a sort of French help. However Mignon leaves them, which means that they are totally left alone. But that does not bother them, as they can cook on their own (Christina being the kind of person she was in Three Ponies and Shannan meant that she never had too cook). Why some people should not be able to cook their own stuff, in the 1980s I do not know, as unlike the late 1940s/1950s, servants are less commonplace. Also, the illogical time gap means that Lucifier, Christina, Augusta, Daybreak and Serenade havent aged, and certainly the animals would be dead by then (or the ponies extremely old!). Maybe this was supposed to take place in the early 1950s, but there is no setting (time wise) given in this book. But we'll ignore that. It is during their time alone that they discover Nico and his pony, who is called Rainbow.

It turns out that like the pony in the previous book, Rainbow needs reschooling and is being threatened with being sold by Nico's father, so to avoid this fate (Christina and Augusta boast of being able to reschool problem ponies), they agree to hide this pony. However he is later found, and there is a nasty incident involving a tower, and Nico behaves like a wild animal, frightened to get caught, because of what would happen to Rainbow.

But things, like most pony books do work out. There is a brief revisit to Augusta by her cousins and her aunt, who we first met in I Wanted a Pony. Although her cousins treat her with some disgust, there is a much better atmosphere and slightly friendlier attitude than the last time we met them.

All in all it is a enjoyable book. To me, it does not have the same charm as the earlier books in the series but still, that could be due to the gap between them. It is probably the easiest to get into, and one of the better ones. This should appeal to most people, though with the addition of Nico, there is an element of it being "of the times", when books in the 1980s were watered down, and with the exception of the P-T's, being poor quality. But it should appeal to most people anyway.


haffyfan said...

I must say I didn't like this one at all, the charm was certainly missing and something else too.

I think that most of the pony books published in the 80's had lost that 'charm' that only more vintage books seem to have. I guess it is the change in times and society that did it?

pullein-thompson-archive said...

Yes I suppose it is a sign of the times. With the exception of the Riders Series by Samantha Alexander and Ginny Elliot's fictional books, I do not like anything published in the 1990s, as they are weak.

I guess (and I was a teenager in the 1990s) that with other things which were there to tempt parents money away from books, such as video consoles, people shied away from the traditional old book, and publishers cared about more about quantity and how fast they came out rather than quality.

There's something about the evils of the hunting seat that you get with early books (not just PT ones, but other authors writing at the same time) that captures your imagination.

Jane said...

I didn't particularly like this one either: it reads rather oddly. Maybe the publishers were keen to have another of the series as the others sold so well, but times had changed and they weren't keen on another book in the same style.