Rereading Flambards

Flambards. A trilogy plus one that I first read for the horses, and a series that I cannot let go. KM Peyton’s saga is (excuse the near-tautology) epic; she swathes a group of people in layers of love, loss and life and it is so very near to perfection.

Christina, the central character arrives at Flambards as a child. She is an orphan, rich, and sent to her Uncle in order to ultimately marry his firstborn son. Her life, however, swiftly changes and she’s all too soon wrapped up in a vortex of horses, hunting and tempestuous spirits.  Her world now begins and ends with Flambards.

Peyton is superbly skilled at writing emotion and books which require a repeat reading. There are levels upon levels upon levels in her books. I particularly adore her women, and was overjoyed to rediscover my love for  Christina upon this reading. As Christina grows up, experiencing good (and heartbreakingly awful moments), she remains resolutely real. She is a contradictory soul –  obnoxious, headstrong, confused, lovely, daring – but never dull. Never run of the mill. Never ‘stock’. Never boring.

Peyton also, as I’ve noted before, writes love superbly. A concept that still remains rare in children’s literature today is that of love being as much as a hindrance as it is a wonder.  The duality of love. You love and you hate. Often at the same time. Love in children’s literature often acknowledges the all-consuming passion(viz. Bella and Edward) but rarely acknowledges any alternative to this model of relationships.Peyton does. She does it with Pennington and Ruth so brilliantly, and she does it here as well. The circle (square?) of relationships between the younger generation in Flambards is both dazzling and breath-taking. You know those years when you’re first discovering love? That you can do this – that you want to do this – that you need to do this? That longing for somebody to just – just hold you? Those moments when you look at somebody you’ve known forever and you think you maybe kind of sort of love them in a way you never thought you did? And then – then you think – what was I thinking? It’s X I want, and it was X all along!  That’s what Peyton gets and she gets it wholeheartedly. The bitter reality, the total whole of love. It’s thrilling writing, the way she presents this dichotomy to the reader with such a matter-of-fact air that it can, quite easily, slip you by. You can, as I did when I was young, sit there and go “HORSIE”. It’s only on rereading, on slow and leisurely and damn-indulgent rereading, that you can start to pull these strands out from your former reading experience.

I’ve known these books for over half of my life. And they’ve served their purpose for each and every stage. Whenever I’ve reread this series, I’ve taken different things from them and they’ve moved me in different ways. It’s almost as if Peyton wrote a bildungsroman when she wrote Flambards. But it wasn’t the story of Christina. It was the story of every confused, hormonal, growing up in the countryside, horse-loving, relationship-forging girl who read it. It was, is and seems forever destined to be, in a way, mine.

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