The Golden Pony by Glyn Jones, 1977
The magic trick:
Pairing an over-the-top story with restrained storytelling
There’s just something about a story a boy and a horse. Prime grounds for generating tears. Just a warning if you decide to sit down and read this story.
Everything in “The Golden Pony” is pitched toward extreme. The boy at the center of the story is an extremely sympathetic character. His classmates on the island are extremely mean. The teacher at the school is extremely cartoonish. The boy’s grandparents are extremely … extreme?
All of it is memorable. All of it is designed to create extreme emotional effect. Notably, the writer’s voice is restrained. It never tries to sell the characterizations or the action. The reader doesn’t have to fight through busy narration, and as a result, a story that could become over-the-top never feels like it.
And that’s quite a trick on Jones’s part.
Often when he came to the gate she was waiting for him, standing with her glowing flank against the bars. Then he would speak gently to her and give her sugar or an apple, and sit astride her back. Round and round the field they went, she placing down the pure white horn of her unshod hooves delicately upon the grass and tossing her dense and snowy mane off her neck at every step; he speaking gently to her her own praises, bending forwards to pat her neck with his hand beneath her mane. Her beauty and gentleness filled his imagination day and night.
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