Flambards by KM Peyton: John C Adams Reviews

Book name: Flambards

Author: KM Peyton

Publisher: OUP/World Publishing Co

Format: ebook, print

Genre: Pony book, vintage children’s fiction

Publication Date: 1967

Star Rating: 5/5


I was such a keen rider when I was young, and I do love a bit of romance. Plus, I grew up in Essex, just where Flambards by KM Peyton is set. So, it’s no surprise that Flambards is one of my favourite vintage children’s books.


Flambards opens in 1908, when flying is in its infancy and war is still a distant threat. By the time the action ends, clouds have gathered. War is imminent, and the UK has a newly formed Royal Air Force.


Christina Parsons is an orphan, pushed from unwilling relative to unwilling relative. Up until now, this has involved boring maiden aunts and living in an urban environment.


At twelve, she has no control whatsoever over the large fortune she will inherit at twenty-one. That fortune attracts the interest of her uncle, who lives at Flambards.


She receives an invitation to go and live there, and snoops on her aunt’s letter to discover that she is expected to marry her cousin, the heir to Flambards, solely to keep the house and estate afloat.


Against the odds, Christina is able to form positive relationships with both her cousins: William, a shy academic child who hates hunting, and Mark (the older) who lives for hunting and is turning out to be just like his father.


She is also practical and useful, helping the overstretched housekeeper and housemaid to keep the house going.


As she grows up, Christina becomes more aware of what it means that Mark intended to be her future husband. It is soon clear that Mark Russell is absolutely unfit to make any young woman happy.


Christina proves as fearless a huntswoman as any of her female relatives, including her own late mother. She also befriends Dick, one of the grooms, and is able to understand William’s obsession with flying.


Flambards is historical fiction. Perhaps unusually for children’s fiction it doesn’t shy away from unpleasant, and often adult, truths. Mark impregnates the housemaid, Violet, who is dismissed and sent away in disgrace.


Violet’s brother Dick is also dismissed from his job as groom for dishonesty when Christina asks him to lie for her. He joins the army and, by the end, William is poised to enter the RAF. An adult world intrudes upon Flambards: the halcyon days of hunting and glamorous balls will soon be over.


Christina was such an impressive heroine. At once innocent and naïve, which is how she causes Dick so many difficulties, she is also brave and uncomplaining.


Having been sent to Flambards as a young woman without any apparent choice but to marry Mark, she nonetheless charts her own path. She certainly won’t be shackling herself to a young man who has already seduced the housemaid and ruined her!


Christina was a wonderful example of how being orphaned can make a heroine pragmatic without losing sight of herself. Life has made her able to navigate events she can’t control, while also staying true to herself.


Flambards was so much more grownup it its subject matter than most children’s fiction. I was left with an enduring impression of how tough and cruel the main characters’ lives were. Yet life was even tougher for Violet and Dick, whose mother dies in the workhouse a year after Violet’s pregnancy.


I hope you've enjoyed my review of Flambards by KM Peyton.


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