My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Black Beauty’s Family is a compilaton of stories written by the estimable Pullein-Thompson sisters. They’re all spin-offs from Black Beauty, and feature the life stories of other horses in his family tree. Each story centres on one horse from the start through to the end of their life (so far, so Black Beauty) and romp through a whole world of historical settings and contexts including smuggling, your-money-or-your-life-ing, circus performing, gangbusting, warring and so on and so forth with quite breathless abandon.
And they are outstanding.
But, before we go any further, I need to clarify what I mean by outstanding. I love the Pullein-Thompson sisters. I love their ferociously practical horse stories. These stories satiated a great need of mine during my childhood (a need, never quite satiated by standing at field gates and staring lovingly at blithely grazing Thelwell-alikes.) I loved, and I still love, how the Pullein-Thompson sisters were on their form, they were unbeatable. Now would also be an appropriate time to tell you that their joint autobiography Fair Girls and Grey Horses remains quite brilliant and well worth a read (“Are your girls normal?” somebody asks their mother. “I hope not” she replies.)
My love for the authors remains paramount, everlasting.
But oh, how these stories are like the Game of Thrones of the pony world. Everybody dies! Everybody gets broken knees! Tails get chopped off! Foals taken away! Ponies go the knackers yard! Bad men die “because of the drink” !
Here are some choice quotes for you:
“after my foal was taken away from me, the Master died. People said it was drink that killed him”
“It’s about Daddy isn’t it? He’s dead”
“The rest of us put our heads down and grazed, each afraid of what the future might hold for us”
And the second volume is edited by a horse! I can’t tell you how much I love this collection. I love the heartfelt earnestness of it, the terribly Sewellian overtones of it, and I love the hysterically tragic tone half of the stories reach and that the other half exceed.
Like I said, it’s outstanding. Genuinely so.