Westlake, Veronica

Veronica Westlake is the author of one of my favourite pony books: The Ten-Pound Pony. I spent years trying to find this book: fruitlessly, as I couldn’t remember the title, and had also managed to get some of the details mixed up with J M Berrisford's The Ponies Next Door. At last a friend and collector from America pointed me in the right direction, and I managed to find a copy. It was very well worth it. Some of the books I adored as a child I don’t find as thrilling now, but this one is every bit as good. It is the story of a family who move out of London, and manage to buy and keep a pony through their own very strenuous efforts. To me, it still, rings true. The character’s squabbles are wince-makingly realistic, and the sheer slog they have to go through to get their pony much more likely than the girl-gets-pony wish fulfillment of other stories. There is a fairytale ending, I will admit, but I love it. Every time I read it, it makes me cry. Every time.

Her The Mug’s Game is also excellent: it is the story of a miserable London girl farmed out to a bohemian family in the country. The pony element is not all-encompassing by any means, but it is a lovely family story. Veronica Westlake was keen on observing family relationships; the Stacey family in The Mug’s Game gave her plenty to go on, as do the Stricklands in The Unwilling Adventurers. All her books have flashes of humour, which coupled with their wry observation of family relationships, makes them all well worth reading. If you can find them.

Finding the books
The Ten Pound Pony has become more expensive, but is reasonably easy to find, particularly in the reprint edition. The Unwilling Adventurers is expensive; The Intruders very expensive, and The Mug’s Game seems very difficult to find at the moment (though this may be a temporary blip!)

Sources and links
Dustjacket of The Mug's Game
The British Library