Saturday, 6 October 2007

Review: DIANA - The Hermit's Horse

The Hermit's Horse is one of Diana's harder to find books, not being really republished, except for 10 years later. Again, it is another one which the first edition is a paperback. It was first published in 1974.

The blurb reads:-

Matthew and Sophie are forbidden to go near the neglected, ivy-clad old house. The hermit that lives there is said to be mad or dangerous. But the unexpected arrival of a big bay horse begins a strange friendship between the children and the man with the mysterious past.

ew hopes and happiness grows, especially with their plans for the Frinkley Horse Show. Then suddenly violence and fear strike! Can the hermit ever find peace now? And what is he afraid of? Will Matthew and his horse ever be able to prove themselves...?

Unlike most pony books, the emphasis is mainly on Matthew, which obviously is a boy.

This book is big on misconceptions, it is turns out the hermit is anything but mad, he just wants to be left alone. I suppose to an outside world, the friendship seems weird, considering the age gap, and if this was a modern world, he would be labelled a paedophile or something, definitely regarded with suspicion. But it proves that the unlikeliest of friendship can grow, and the added adventure of there being a horse is the most common factor.

It is also a tale of horse rescue and rehabilitation, since the horse was a rescue one. In a way, it is a story about rehabilitation of people too, as the hermit doesnt deal with the outside world, and what happens when he does. It is a quiet story, and often overlooked, but one of the best, as the hermit's character is really defined. The cover I feel lets it down, but I think this is one of Diana's gems, which has less publicity and generally less well known than her other books. If you can, I think you should read it.

Oh and some news about my want list. I have only got 2, possibly 3, Josephine books left on it to get. I say 3, because there is some doubt about whether Black Raven does exist. Certainly there is no sign of it on abebooks. Copac and the British Library dont have it in their records, however they are sometimes inaccurate as I know of a Christine P-T book which does not appear on there. It's never shown up on ebay either. Whatever, it is mighty strange. So if anyone does have it, please post. My Christine want list is down to 9 books now. Though I have yet to read all my P-T books. So once Diana is done (which should be by the end of the year, unless something goes wrong), Josephine is next one of the P-T's to be tackled.


haffyfan said...

I am not sure Black Raven exists either. I can only find reference to it on Wikipedia, which appears often unaccurate.
Until recently they had an unexisting Jackie book listed too...Jackie And the Pony trials....

Do you have a Diana book called 'Once A Pony'? This is listed on wikipedia but again I have searched in vain and no copies are mentioned anywhere else in the world. I am wondering if it is a mistake and they mean only a pony, although this is listed too?

pullein-thompson-archive said...

I actually added that to Wikipedia, and I found it in a book called "Who's Who" 2007, which is found in the reference library in your local library. There is also some interesting bits about Josephine (she is the only PT listed, although Diana's late husband is listed)including when she got her MBE, and about her riding career/PEN career. So if it doesnt exist, then the publishers of Who's Who are to blame.

Once A Pony seems to be the same book as Only a Pony, as they both share the same ISBN number. I removed that once I found out. Copac have it listed under that title though. So I dont have it, though naturally I do have Only a Pony.

As for that Jackie book, I found it once listed on abebooks, but again, I have found no evidence of it, so I amended it. I have every single Jackie book (not all the same edition) and it is not listed there under the "other books" bit. It is the only occurrence of that book, so I presumed that the book seller concerned had made a mistake. Unfortunately I dont have any contact info for Judith M Berrisford, so I cant write and ask her, if it does really exist.

pullein-thompson-archive said...

Once a Pony is listed under Amazon btw, but of course, no copies are available for purchase, at this time.

haffyfan said...

I often wondered if Jackie and the pony trials was a working/previous title for maybe Change Ponies Jackie? It is the only one that the title could relate to really. I have a full set too, mainly 1st editions of the various decades but it is not mentioned, nor is a change of ttle.

Re : Raven, it may well exist as Mystery on The Moor is impossible to find but there are pics available to prove it's existance. You could try asking Charlotte at Cavalier paperbacks...she is Christines daughter and very helpful.

pullein-thompson-archive said...

Yes it could be that, however Mystery on the Moor can be found. I have Mystery on the Moor myself, though it doesnt have the same charm as the previous series, since the Burnetts are not in it. I actually like the Moor series the best out of Josephine's, but I find Mystery and Suspicion rather poor in comparison, as Josephine had to change the main characters and that for me, spoils it.

But you could be right regarding the Jackie book. The trouble is with so many editions, you cant always rely on your copies. For example I have the Hodderson/Knight publications, and they (back in around 1992) only decided to only republish 6. Not the first 6, but a random 6. So only my bookshelf I have 2 books labelled "2", and the Hodderson/Knight edition number 2 is in reality the 5th or sixth Judith wrote.

When I recently had to put back the books from the work, the Jackie series caused me the most annoyance, as it took me ages to work out which was the correct (in terms of first published) sequence. The rest of the pony books were easily, but the Jackie series took me an whole hour to sort out.

I recently re-read the whole of the Jackie series, but have yet to read Change Ponies Jackie (got bored with it a bit, after 14 books it was long winded). So now I am reading Pat Smythe's Leaping Life's Fences, which is a book with a lot of content, but if you have read her other autobiographies, you find that (so far) some of the stuff has been mentioned before, so in some respects it is boring. But I am only on Chapter 3 so far.

bevi said...

Yes, Black Raven does exist, but I am not sure it has ever been published on its own. It was in a Black Beauty's family 3-in-1 with the other two sisters writing the other parts. There is a lot of confusion with collecting these BBF titles, because the PTs wrote several which, although the stories were different, ended up with more or less the same title when pub/repub. So BB Clan became BB Family in the Red Fox ed IIRC, but BBF also refers to the one with Raven in it. Basically all called BBF or BB Clan (think there are 3 sets of 3).

I did disentangle all these for the series fiction booklet but in the end they were left out. Of course, I can't find my notes now!

But I think it goes like this:
1 - BB Clan (Ebony, Princess, Velvet) 1975 (and later pub as sep pbks)
2 - BB Family (Nightshade, Romany Blossom) 1978.
3 - Another also called BBF which has Raven/Piper/Pioneer. - much later but unsure of date

Then I think the 1 and 2 were later pub as BBF 1 & 2; also together in one vol in 1986.
Then 2 was repub as More from BBF by Red Fox.

So, if you're after the 3rd vol, then scour listings for mid-80s BBF and you might get lucky.

NB The Black Raven/Piper/pioneer one was sold here:

Vanessa said...


I must confess that I haven't read The Hermit's Horse which is fairly shameful as I'm Josephine P-T's publisher and a long-standing pony books fan!

I've emailed Josephine about the archive you're building up and I'm sure she'll be along to read it. Also, if there are any titles that you need to borrow do let me know and I'll see if I can help.

pullein-thompson-archive said...

Thanks very much for your comment, bevi.

As I already have the original BB clan books (in their seperate editions) and "More From Black Beauty's Family", published by Red Fox, I tended to ignore other editions of any Black Beauty, as (naturally) I assumed they were all the same, bar the name and publisher.

I will definitely keep an eye out for a mid 1980s editions of the books, that link doesnt work (leads to an unrelated book), but thank you ever so much for deciphering the mystery. I am eternally greatful (though my wallet isnt so).

Fiona said...

I only came across "The Hermit's Horse as an adult and I found it a moving and powerful read.
It focusses on the aftermath of war and mental illness. These are not themes covered with much depth, if at all in previous books by the sisters.

The children are warned not not go to the house and there is a sense that their parents are concerned he is a paedophile, though the term is not mentioned.The father connects the police and makes enquiries at the local shop before they are allowed to go in the house.
It is moralistic in as far as the children feel guilt at encouraging thieves to break in by telling people about the Landseer.
I think it is one of her best books.

I think "Riding with the Lyntons" is interesting. This involves tragedy when a pony is killed on the road after the protagonist appears to neglect the closing of a gate. Diana includes tragic events in a number of her novels. Seaspray's tetanus in "A Pony to School", Matilda the tortoise crushed by a pony in "I Wanted a Pony" are other examples that spring to mind.

pullein-thompson-archive said...

Thanks for your comment Fiona.

It is interesting what you say about Diana's book being full of tragedy, you are right, but not one that occurred to me before.

Anonymous said...

If the "Black Raven" story referred to was in the "Black Beauty's Family" series and concerned a horse who assisted in saving a suspected witch from drowning, I can confirm it does indeed exist. I used to have a paperback copy in a volume with 2(?) other stories in the series, but am not sure whether it's still in my possession. Hope this helps!