Flambards by KM Peyton was published just before I was born. I discovered it twelve years later when it was still the first in a trilogy although that trilogy would develop into a quartet a year or so later. I enjoyed Flambards, although I was not then, and am not now, at all horsey! The hunting and horse-riding and mucking out stables was all very well but I was really grabbed by two things: the house and the heroine.
Christina, an orphan, arrives at Flambards at the age of twelve to live with her unsympathetic Uncle Russell and his two sons, Mark and Will. She realises that her uncle would like to marry her off to Mark, the elder, favoured son, so that her inheritance could be used to preserve Flambards. But Christina dislikes her cousin as much as she loves the house. It is Will, who has a passion for flying, to whom Christina is attracted. And so the scene is set for the struggle between old and new, tradition and modernity.
The second book remains my favourite. In fact, it is one of my favourite books of all. The Edge of the Cloud, which won the Carnegie Medal, is Christina and Will’s story and is set away from Flambards although the house and all it stands for looms over their lives. And to my mind it is this book that Linda Newbery has written a follow-up to.
The Key to Flambards is not a sequel to the quartet; it is a modern story with new characters but it is set in the house and it revisits some of the action and characters from KM Peyton’s novels. It is important to say that Linda had Kathy Peyton’s blessing in writing her book and I am sure that the latter is pleased with the result. Grace, the main character, is Christina’s descendant. She and her mother arrive at Flambards, now a residential centre, for the summer and Grace is captivated by the house and her family history some of which the centre manager has unearthed.
As everyone who has read Linda Newbery’s books would expect, Flambards leaps off the page. Linda’s settings are always wonderfully evoked and this is no exception. As I read, a picture grew in my mind and I could see the action very clearly set in a definite environment. And her characters are her other strength. This is not a plot-driven novel. It’s the story of a house and some of the people associated with it. It is an exploration of family, friendship and love, and a consideration of the concept of continuity. Perhaps that makes it sound too worthy, though. I should point out that I read it in one sitting, finishing at two in the morning! It was properly a page-turner.
Anyway it’s here now, published today (with a beautiful dust wrapper by Katie Harnett) and it’s a real treat. It’s an excellent book in its own right whether or not you’ve ever heard of the Flambards quartet. You certainly don’t need to have read KM Peyton’s books to enjoy or understand Linda’s, although, if you have met them before, you’ll get a kick out of hearing about Christina and Will again.