Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Flambards: The greatest YA series ever

I'll chant you no anthems of sweet-smelling ladies
Uttering small talk at vicarage teas;
Instead I'll sing of a smiling survivor
Who's been through the wood and the trees.
-“Song of Christina” by Alan Plater and David Fanshawe

Because I like the cover of the DVD set better than the cover of the book.
Country estates, cute boys, airplanes, hunt balls, and horses.  What more could a girl want?

Since I’m writing for YAs I’m expected to read YA.  At least that’s what I tell myself.  In truth I’m still a 14-year-old at heart, and that heart is hopelessly besotted with Flambards.

Years and years ago I watched the television show on PBS, but only recently learned it was based on a series of books by K.M. Peyton.  They are now some of my favorite books ever (except for Edge of the Cloud which I just skimmed through since horses > airplanes).  I just see them on my shelves and want to pull them down and hug them.  They’re that good.

The series tells the story of orphaned heiress (aren’t all the best heroines?) Christina Parsons who is sent to live at Flambards with her horse crazy Uncle Russell and her cousins Mark and William. Uncle Russell’s diabolical plan is to marry Christina off to the older brutish Mark and sink her inheritance into the crumbing family manse, but Christina is drawn more to the younger sensitive Will (don’t think about the cousin thing too much and it won’t bother you, promise). 

Christina is a young woman of passion and impulse and spends the four books torn between three men: Mark, the handsome huntsman; Will, the idealistic aviator; and Dick, the devoted stableboy.   

What makes Flambards great is that every single character written by K.M. Peyton is so multi-dimensional you can actually spend hours debating their actions and motivations (and many people on the yahoo discussion board do, I checked). Throughout the series the characters grow and change, especially after the ravages of World War I.  They don’t always make the right decisions, often behaving selfishly and foolishly.

But boy are there some swoon-inducing scenes.   

A lot of controversy surrounds the fourth book, Flambards Divided, because of its adult themes (miscarriages, adultery, and one very ugly divorce set-up).  It was also written 12 years after the third book and following the airing of the TV show.  Some people love it - others want to erase it from their memory.  Personally, it’s my favorite of the series (as the worn spine of my copy will attest).

So please please someone else read these books soon so we can start discussing the merits of William vs Dick vs Mark. 

And now I think I have to go read them again.  After all, the fox chasing season will soon be upon us…

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