Saturday, 15 December 2007

Review: DIANA - The Long Ride Home

The Long Ride Home is this week's book, and also the final Diana book we will be seeing for quite a considerable amount of time. I am aware that I have left out Black Princess, Black Romany and Black Piper, but I do plan to do all the "Black" books at the same time, by all 3 authors. It was first published in 1996, making it Diana's last book (both pony and non pony). It is not illustrated.

The blurb reads:-

"Call granny if something really awful happens and you need help" says
Carey's mother. before leaving. "You can share Sandpiper with me," Carey tells Hannah. But Hannah hates riding and soon the cottage fills with her mysterious friends. Before long the medical problem, which has dogged Cary ever since an attack of meningitis, is being exploited by Hannah and her boyfriend Steve. Then her mobile phone, Carey's lifeline, disappears. Frightened, she leaves the Scottish island with Sandpiper and her collie, Tina, and sets out to ride to her Grandmother's cottage in Yorkshire.

This is the story of Carey's long and often terrifying ride with her two beloved and sometimes awkward animals, a story of treachery and pursuit with an surprising twist at the end.

To a certain extent, this is based on Diana's own long ride (for those of you who are unaware, she rode from Land's End to John O'Groats), however she does make an comment that this book is entirely fictitious, save for the warm hospitality that she received from the Scots. Whether that bit is true or not, I have never been to Scotland or have any Scottish relatives.

In some ways this is a more modern book than Diana's previous creations, the advent of the mobile phone is an obvious example, and the mentioning of the illness is another. Pony books dont generally mention the rider's illnesses, the nearest they get is an attack of the "needle" (whatever that may be; I suspect it is another way of saying nerves). Again Neighbours is a mention of another thing (the TV programme, not the people who live nearby), TV is rarely mentioned in pony books. Presumably, people in pony books are too busy having adventures to bother about things such as TV, or in the case of the early books, very few people had TV, because they were so darned expensive. I have heard countless tales of people in the 1950s having only one television in the street, and I suppose having 101 neighbours around (the real people this time) to watch your tv was guess tough luck if you wanted peace and quiet. Or if you didn't like your neighbours, I guess you had to be uber nice to them if you wanted to watch their TV.

Anyway, back to the book. The main part is given away in the blurb, and there is a lovely detail in the way she ends up. Her parents are away, so feeling downtrodden, she goes to her granny's on horseback. The people she meets on the way, and the threat is so real that she faces. It's like you are almost there. With some pony books you feel that it is unreal, that it could never happen, but this one, it definitely not like that.

The twist is suprising at the end and totally unexpected. I really like this book, and is of the same high quality standard that we expect of Diana. It should appeal to the masses, but it is not lost either. It's surprising that many people dont talk about this book, I feel it deserves better recognition than what it does.

Next week: a Josephine book.


haffyfan said...

I would have to say this is well written but just dosen't do it for me...too modern, it has none of the vintage charms most of her others books have, and I do not feel in this day and age (this is a 90's book) that the journey would have been possible for a young girl and pony to undertake on the hoof, so the speak. If it had been written in the 50's/60's, when it would appear the world was a much nicer/more innocent place (i am not old enough to know), maybe it would be believable but I feel she would have in reality met a sticky end or given up and had to admit defeat. I am also not buying the being left with a complete stranger (even if a member of the family) either I'm afraid.

pullein-thompson-archive said...

Yeah I must admit that the stranger thing was a sticking point. After all 10 years ago, which is when this book would have been still brand new, people were aware of the strangers, and the nasty people. Compare this with 50 years prior, when people were comfortable with leaving their doors open (or so I am told, like you I wasnt around then).

But really, I guess all the 3 sisters had to appeal to a changing market, when this was brand new, it was the beginning to things like Heartland, when all the pony books had to be series, rather than excellent stand alone books. Diana had to appeal to the quite significantly changing pony book market, and this is a good reflection of this, but still a high quality one.

Like you said, it hasnt got the charm of their (all 3 sisters) earlier books. But I think that is true for most of the stuff they wrote in the late 1980s/1990s, rather than this example.

haffyfan said...

I would def agree with that...apart from Josephine's Woodbury pony clubs (which were childhood faves and still amongst my faves now) the late 70's books onwards were not so endearing as earlier ones...a lot of the innocence was lost and with it a certain charm.

Saying that A Job with Horses is an outstanding of her best and yet very modern in content! Maybe it is because it was written for a mature audience and features older characters that it works?

I will look forward to your reviews of Josephine's books as I much prefer them to her sisters.

pullein-thompson-archive said...

Probably with "A Job With Horses", that it is part of J A Allen's pony book series, and it had to tie with that. I havent read all the book in that series, but judging from Diana's "Cassidy In Danger/This Pony Is Dangerous", they feature older characters, so I guess that is part of it.

I like Josephine's Woodbury pony club series, like you it was childhood. I enjoy those, it fits in with the style of horse riding that I was taught, though we didnt use martingales.