The Red Pony, by John Steinbeck
In some ways, I feel a bit cheated by this book, mostly because I didn’t realise that it was supposed to be a children’s book. Yes it’s short, and yes I picked it up because I remember that it was one of the books that Roald Dahl’s Matilda read, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s aimed at children. Especially since the edition I read was published by Penguin, rather than Puffin, their children’s imprint.
At the same time however, I’d say I probably enjoyed it more than the other Steinbeck books I’ve read (Of Mice and Men for school, and an attempt at The Grapes of Wrath). It’s yet another coming of age/adolescence story (I really need to find something else to read, it’s beginning to look like I have a problem!), set on a timeless ranch in California’s Salinas Valley. Rather than being one overarching narratives, it’s more like a series of short stories depicting events in the early teenage years of Jody Tiflin, as he comes to terms with the fact that life isn’t as a clean-cut as it seems when you’re a child.
Steinbeck’s description is, as ever, breathtaking, and his prose is a joy to read. The book of course, lacks a lot of the depth and commentary that his more adult works thrive on, (the only reason this is a 4, and not 5 rating) but it’s to be expected, and The Red Pony is a good, quick, example of a master writer.