Friday, 9 September 2011

Review: ALL THREE - Fair Girls and Grey Horses

Fair Girls and Grey Horses: Memories of a country childhood is really their second collective work, as the first was It Began with Picotee. However, unlike It Began With Picotee, this is an non fictional work. It is actually an autobiography, with all 3 sisters contributing to every chapter. This is actually a different style to It Began With Picotee, which works much better I think. However, it does lead to some duplication.

It was first published in 1996, 50 years after the publication of It Began with Picotee. The scan is of an paperback edition, which has the same cover as the hardback edition. There is also a large type edition and an audio book version (sadly, not read out by the sisters).

This book is not aimed at children, more like adult collectors or people have who have read their books as a child and are now grown up. It is not illustrated.

The blurb reads:-

'Are your twins normal?' Mrs Pullein-Thompson was asked. 'Good God, I hope not,' she retorted.

The twins were Diana and Christine who, with their elder sister Josephine, have written 150 books, which have sold in millions around the world. Now, over 50 years after the publication of their first book, It Began with Picotee, the sisters have jointly written about their extraordinary childhood with lovable but often unreliable animals and unforgettable humans.

It also mentions quite frequently their brother Denis Cannan, and their father, Cappy, of which little is known about, at least in comparison to the sisters (and their mother). It begins with some family history.

Although not meant to be funny, there are some. One particular incident is when Josephine writes "He also had an embarrassing habit of knocking the hats off men who failed to remove them for the National Anthem" when talking about how Cappy was fiercely patriotic. Also they (the sisters) had euphemisms brought by their Victorian Nana, and the confusions/chaos it sometimes caused led to some amusing incidents.

There are a few adult references, but not as much as the non pony work, A Place With Two Faces (Josephine), but the general tone would make it boring for children. There are some incidents about animals (not necessarily about horses) which provide some amusement. Some events which happened in their life did actually appear in their (or their mother's) books, though the names had been changed.

Three are also some sample of poems which have yet to appear in any other book, which gives a fascinating insight into their fruitful literary career, especially as most of them were written before the publication of It Began With Picotee. There are also some photos of their childhood.

In some ways, it shows (despite their lack of formal education) the forward-thinking of their Mamma (Joanna Cannan). Although she did send them to school at some point, she insisted that they only attended half a day, because she "believed children should enjoy their childhood", a fact that is sadly lacking these days.

All in all, a humorous book, and completely utterly enjoyable. However for me, the greatest disappointment was the fact that there was not a complete bibliography of their works included. Admittedly, Christine did write several books after this was first published. You notice to the right there is the link to the Wikipedia article which has all the books listed, but that was done by me, following many hours of research. If that was included, it would have made my life much easier. Completely and utterly fascinating, though sadly there is not much about the riding school that they owned.