Out this month is Gallop to the Hills, the fifth in the series (of which there are twelve), featuring wild, wilful Jinny and her beautiful Arab mare Shantih. There are many layers to my love of this series:
1) I read these as a child and loved them so much that I never forgot about them.
2) When I started at Catnip this was the first series I suggested we publish - the day before Lauren St John emailed Andrea to recommend we do just that. In the end it was Lauren who did an amazing amount of detective work to make her (and my) dream come true.
3) The story of how we came to publish them makes me happy - Lauren's championing of the series, Patricia's joy and delight at the idea of Jinny and Shantih running free once more, the members of pony forums who contacted me when they heard these were coming out once more...
4) The story of the cover star. You may notice that we feature the same horse on all the covers. Her name is Shantih and she belongs to the photographer, Karen Budkiewicz. Like me, Karen read the books obsessively as a child and fell for the fictional Shantih's charms – so much so that she made it her mission to find her very own fiery chestnut Arab. To have a real-life Shantih pose for the series of books after which she was named just seems too perfect to be true. But it is.
5) The writing. These books are littered with social commentaries that are as relevant today as they were when they were penned – touching upon inner city poverty, animal cruelty and perceptions of traveller community amongst other things – and Jinny is a perfectly flawed heroine who is locked in a perpetual struggle with doing what she knows to be right and what she knows to be easy. You can tell that this isn't a Pony Club romp, nor a series written for commercial value, but one written from the very soul of a woman who not only loves horses but language too. These books contain sentences so perfect that that they make me want to cry with love for the words, here's one of my favourite paragraphs:
“The afterglow of sunset turned sky, sea and wet sands into a glowing sapphire. We must be breathing blue air, Jinny thought. Sue and Marlene were walking the horses at the water’s edge and the spray from their horses’ hooves glittered ice blue, diamond, aquamarine. They were held in a jewelled paperweight of sky and sea.”
These are all the reasons why I love this series, but don't just take my word for it, have a look yourself. Buy a copy and, as Ken, the insightful young drifter who lives with Jinny's family would say, 'Take joy.'