Magazine article The Spectator

The Way All Horse-Lovers Want the World to Be

Magazine article The Spectator

The Way All Horse-Lovers Want the World to Be

Article excerpt

The way all horse-lovers want the world to be

Katie Grant

MISS CHANCE by Simon Barnes

HarperCollins, 16.99, pp. 280

You can take the boy out of the Pony Club but you cannot take the Pony Club out of the boy. Simon Barnes's previous novel, Rogue Lion Safaris, may be `Dick Francis . . . but better written', according to the Times, but his new offering, Miss Chance, is pure Christine (and sisters) Pullein Thompson. I loved their stories. They always had an impossible pony that was eventually tamed by the nervous and sensitive only child of impoverished parents. In a final climactic scene, the nervous one would storm her way to victory on said impossible pony and snatch the red ribbon from under the noses of her erstwhile tormentors in the Open Class at the Hunter Trials. How many childish hearts have not dreamt of such glory?

Well, here is the adult version of Jill Has Two Ponies with ingredients adjusted accordingly - sensitive man (poor), mad mare linked to untamable wife (rich), jodhpurs (sometimes now round ankles), haynets (still never forgotten), saddle soap (as ever, always in evidence) and to complement the inevitable Hunter Trial triumph conducted at breakneck speed over huge fences (Mel to Mark: `What possessed you?' Mark to Mel: `She did. Oh, Mel.') we have a story of starcrossed love, emotional tangles, Sexuella and Bosomina.

The plot may be a cliche but it is not without merit. Reading Miss Chance is like polishing up old Pony Club trophies comforting rather than gripping. …

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