Flambards by K. M. Peyton.
The first brilliant and absorbing novel in the 'Flambards' trilogy is called Flambards. When twelve-year-old Christina Parsons is orphaned she is sent to live with her Uncle Russell and his two sons in their old country house, Flambards. It is a strange, unruly household that Christina grows up in during those years before the First World War: one she comes to love, hate, and to be inextricably bound up with.
First published by Oxford University Press in 1967.
Christina Parsons' violent Uncle Russell loved horses and hunting more than his sons or his nieces and, though the stables were kept immaculately and expensively, the lovely house fell into decay. But Uncle Russell had been crippled while hunting years ago, and in his frustration he raged and hit out at anyone or anything that appeared to question his right to rule his stables, and the lives and thoughts of all his household.
Even though she was frightened and horrified, Christina, orphaned but an heiress, quickly adapted to this tense situation. She learned to ride because Uncle Russell decreed it, and surprisingly enjoyed herself - partly because Dick, the groom who taught her, was one of the only two people who ever showed her any sympathy or understanding.
The other was her younger cousin, Will, although most of the time he was totally absorbed in an all-consuming interest in the new flying machines, something he dare not tell his father. Mark, the eldest son, destined to be Christina's husband, was perfectly happy with horses. Occasionally will emerged from his private world, and it was he and Dick who helped Christina to hide her beloved horse, Sweetbriar, when Uncle Russell ordered that she go for dogs' meat. But the deception was discovered, and in the violent and unhappy aftermath Dick lost his job. It is this episode which, more than any other, makes Christina question the way she lives and the attitudes and values of a society which tolerates such cruelty.
Flambards is the story of five years of Christina's life, five years in which she must come to terms with growing up at the beginning of the twentieth century in a rigid and loveless household. It is a challenging and moving story, the first in the award-winning trilogy by an outstandingly interesting and original writer of novels for teenage readers. The other books in the trilogy are The Edge of the Cloud and Flambards in Summer.
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