Review Blog

Aug 31 2010

Nobody's horse by Jane Smiley

cover image

Faber and Faber, 2010. ISBN 978-0571253548.
Recommended for horse lovers of all ages. I was immediately attracted to the cover showing a gorgeous brown horse and found myself quickly engrossed in the story of Abby and Grumpy George, a horse that bucks her off and won't look her in the eye. Abby's father specialises in buying horses that haven't reached their potential, training them and then selling them on for a profit. He has Abby ride all the horses so that he can tell prospective buyers that 'a little girl can ride them'. Abby has problems at school as well, her best and only friend Gloria, seems to be more interested in being friends with Stella and when she is accused of stealing a necklace, everything seems to be too much.
There is much to admire in Abby's character. She works tirelessly on training the horses with her father and attending to the endless chores that go with a working farm. Her fundamentalist father is a difficult man and refuses to listen when Abby tries to tell him that she just doesn't want to get back on Grumpy George when he bucks her off, but Abby quietly makes some changes. Her brother Danny has already left home because of a rift with his father, but Abby doesn't fuss about the difficulties in her life. She is not allowed to become close to any of the horses, who are all called George or Jewel so that Abby won't become attached to them as individuals, but she calls the new baby colt Jack and gently makes friends with him. She is stoical about the bullying that goes on at school and loyal to her friend, Gloria.
I read with interest the different training methods that were used to try and get Grumpy George to behave. People who have horses or those who would love to have a horse will find invaluable the advice that Jem Jarrow, a patient horse trainer, has to give Abby. It was great to see Abby using that advice to help a less experienced rider become more confident as well.
I loved this book: its calm setting in the 60's and its array of strong characters made it easy to finish it in one sitting and the horse content was excellent.
Pat Pledger

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