Friday, 24 September 2010

Book Review - Riding Lessons by Sara Gruen

Synopsis
Annemarie Zimmer was a world - class equestrian and Olympic contender.  She lived for the thrill of flight atop a strong, graceful animal.  At the age of eighteen, a tragic accident destroyed her riding career and Harry, the beautiful horse she cherished.
Now jobless and abandoned twenty years later, Annemarie is coming home to her dying father's New Hampshire horse farm, bringing her troubled teenaged daughter to this place of pain and memory.  Hope still lives here in the eyes of the handsome, gentle veterinarian Annemarie loved as a girl ... and in the seductive allure of a trainer with a magic touch.
But everything will change yet again with one glimpse of a white striped gelding who recalls the one lost in another lifetime...and reignites an obsession that could shatter Annemarie's fragile world.

Review
I was not encouraged to read Pony club style books as a child.  I think it was the fear that I would want to learn to ride a horse and the expense such a hobby should incur.  I used to watch the riders walk down our road from the stable wishing I could join them .  Therefore, I have not been particularly inclined to read horsy books and I have to say I opened it with trepidation.  However, I was pleasantly surprised.  My daughter has had a few riding lessons over the years so the terminology was not too alien.
You are immediately made to feel sorry for Annemarie who is made redundant and on the same day her husband announces he is leaving to move in with his lover.  She receives a call from Mutti (her Mother) to tell her about her Father's degenerative illness and that he has not got long to live.  Of course, thrown into the mix is a troublesome teenage daughter, Eva, aged 15.  Not legally old enough to go her own way but old enough to feel entitled to take her own decisions, hence whatever decision Annemarie makes it will not be the right one as far as Eva is concerned.
Once Annemarie and Eva arrive at the parents horse farm in New Hampshire my feelings towards our heroine changed.  Annemarie has a difficult relationship with her parents mainly due to a rigid upbringing and her parents desire for her to become a rider of world class standard.  Annemarie has not forgiven them but equally cannot face her Father who has gone from being such a strong figure of authority to a skeleton of himself.  She behaves in a cowardly manner by not accepting the situation around her and rejecting those  who genuinely try to help her.  She treats her daughter in the strict manner she was brought up, saying no and not being open to reason and discussion.  Yet Annemarie herself expects people to drop everything for her.   She cannot handle her situation and does not engage with her lawyer in preparation for her divorce.  I found her obsession over the horse "Hurrah" which Dan (the vet) rescued rather strange.  The horse's markings being identical to Harry's, the horse she rode in her prime and I can understand her 'googling' him to find out some history.  She discovered that this horse was indeed Harry's brother and had been reported dead by his previous owner for insurance money.  Unfortunately, Dan pre-empted her by making the phone call to the horse registry and yes, maybe I would be annoyed, but her character just appears to go off the rails from then on.  It was an enjoyable read and made a change but rated 3* for me.

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