Book name: Fire in the Punchbowl
Author: Monica Edwards
Publisher: William Collins
Genre: Pony book
Publication Date: 1965
Star Rating: 5/5
Monica Edwards’ ‘Punchbowl’ series of children’s fiction embodies the old adage ‘Write about What you Know’. The books are set on a farm in the Devil’s Punchbowl, a natural crater filled with trees in Surrey, southern England.
Ostensibly pony books, since the Thornton children are mad about riding, the stories value an active childhood at one with the natural world, striking a balance with cultivating the land to support us all.
Originally published in 1965, Fire in the Punchbowl went through various editions, including the Armada one in my collection, before being reissued by Girls Gone By in 2010.
The four Thornton siblings couldn’t be more different. By the time Fire in the Punchbowl comes round, we’ve already seen them move to the farm, settle down and have plenty of adventures, both there and further afield. This is the penultimate book in the series.
Lindsey’s aim for the summer is to befriend a pine marten living near her home and teach her good friend Roger to ride. Her older brother Dion can only think of the farm he has lovingly restored to a working condition and his growing admiration for Rissa, who proves her mettle as a future farmer’s wife during the narrative.
Andrea is preoccupied with deciding what to do now that she has left school. Peter, the youngest at ten years old, is in search of a purpose while in danger of being forgotten by his older siblings and their friends. Yet he will play a central role in the fight to save innocent creatures from the flames.
The long, hot summer makes kindling of the Punchbowl; eventually it is all too much and fire breaks out. From that moment, all hands are needed to stifle the flames and save the livestock and farmhouse. Fire in the Punchbowl is one of the least pony-orientated books in the series, with the action to save the cows, the ponies and the farmhouse the focus of much of the narrative.
Lindsey is very sensitive. She comes closest to being the point-of-view character and is the one most sympathetic to the author’s standpoint. She was also my favourite. Dion is well on the way to being level-headed and practical enough to make a decent farmer. I liked and respected him very much.
The two siblings encapsulate the complexity of our interaction with nature. He is determined not to make Punchbowl Farm a factory farm, but recognises that modern technology is essential to making a living.
She is learning to accept that we can have a good influence on the world around us. Her own well-meaning acts to save the pine marten illustrate how our interventions can be misplaced.
Although I personally prefer the books in the series that focus more on riding, I always enjoy Fire in the Punchbowl for its reflective quality and its exciting plot with plenty of action.
Thank you for reading my review of Fire in the Punchbowl by Monica Edwards. Please share your thoughts in the comments section.
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