Reviews of National Velvet (1935)
Review by kirwar4face (2004-03-02)
Enid Bagnold's "National Velvet" (the title properly includes the quotation marks) is more than a feel-good novel for horsy adolescent girls; it is one of the great fantasy novels of the 20th century. Its earthiness and the naturalness of its characters so charm us that we accept the Brown family's almost magical acquisition of horses as no more than the due of four or five horse-loving girls (I forget how many) of whom only the oldest has grown out of horses and into boys. Velvet at fourteen is the youngest daughter, and like the others plays at 'racing' cutout horses from magazines, until real horses come. Velvet's mother Araminty was a champion in her day, a Channel swimmer, and the Brown's hired man, Mi Taylor, son of the man who trained her (Mi being banned from the racing world because of a scandal) believes that the delicate, persistent Velvet has her mother's talent for heroism. Yes, it's the people who make this novel so good; one falls in love with them, as they love one another, though hardly any spot of romantic love sullies the narrative, except in the imagination of reporters. There is love of family for family, trainer for heroine, girl for horse, as well as love of tenpenny creams when one has any money for them. No novel that pauses to celebrate the love for tenpenny creams can fail to leave the reader with a satisfied warmth in the belly and other comfort portions of the anatomy.