This book turned out to be exactly what I wanted to read yesterday. Paperback Reader had suggested that I should get out some old boarding school books to cheer myself up with, but I had been diverted onto thinking about "horsey" books that I used to enjoy (The Jill books by Ruby Ferguson, and those by the Pullein-Thompson sisters in particular) (even though I never went horse-riding and am hugely allergic to horses). This was partly the result of discovering that Joanna Cannan, author of the Persephone book Princes in the Land, also wrote some horsey children's books, but more importantly was the mother of the Pullein-Thompson sisters! Bizarrely, this book turned out to fit into this sort of theme.
I saw this book in the bookshop in Cornwall at the weekend, and made a mental note of it. Lycett Green is the daughter of John Betjeman, of whom I am a great fan due to his love of Cornwall and very readable poetry. So I was pleased to be able to get it from the library yesterday. I have to say when I started reading it that it did not cheer me up - the book is partly about Lycett Green's struggle (albeit successful) with breast cancer, which was not a hugely jolly aspect of the book. The book is partly the story of her 200-mile journey on horse back through Yorkshire and Northumberland to raise funds for breast cancer - hence fitting into my horse-book thinking mood. Whilst this provides the frame for the book, there are many more threads running through the book which made it a really interesting read - she writes lyrically about her unconventional childhood, her life and her marriage, and previous horse riding experiences (I particularly loved the tale of a birthday party her mother organised where people expecting a dinner-dance were taken on horses hired from the local stables for a 10 mile trip to a picnic - this was met with a mixture of hilarity and horror - Lycett Green never saw the boy she fancied again after this!). And the other thing I liked about the book was the description of places that I vaguely know; I had hoped there would be more about Cornwall or Oxford, but there was a lot about places like Faringdon, and Uffington, which I don't know very well, but drive past on the way between Cornwall and Oxford, so I was able to do a certain amount of visualisation. A relaxing read.
Mavis Gallant’s “Madeline’s Bithday” (1951)
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