What is it like to be abandoned over the summer holidays far from home with a tedious set of cousins on a boring farm where everything is dirty, smelly, and unfamiliar? This is the vacation Nell is facing in Sarah Lean’s story A Hundred Horses. It doesn’t take long for the joy of living close to the land and a mysterious appearance of wild girl Angel and her special horses to ensure Nell is intrigued.
What I found so fascinating in the novel was Lean’s ability to capture that lurching feeling of confusion as Nell treads the challenging path of trying to understand who to trust and how to navigate her own feelings of loneliness and distrust of domineering adults. Angel is aggressive and terrifying, appearing unexpectedly; she is more malevolent than fairy-like and Nell is spun about in her seeking for meaning.The reasons behind Angel’s strange behaviours emerge, just as they would in real life, in a chaotic and blundering kind of way with Nell misunderstanding almost every step. Behind the brave front are a heartbreaking stories of loss and a sweet story of the love of a trusted adult that balances the other story strands of desertion and unreliable behaviour.
Having grown up in a rural area where hanging out on the farms of my friends showed me it’s not all fluffy goslings and cute foals, I appreciated the mixed emotions of Nell’s experience. The land can be awe inspiring but also a dramatic reminder of elemental forces and emotions at play in our world. I can highly recommend this book, especially for those in the early tween years who are torn between doing the right thing and facing the realities of emerging understanding of more than the immediate world of family and personal feelings.
- Rosslyn Bentley
- Rosslyn Bentley