Monday, June 23, 2014

My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding

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Publication date: 2012
Publisher: Penquin
Pages: 318
My rating: 3.5 stars
Ages: 16+

In this memoir of an "English Treasure," Balding discusses what it was like growing up the daughter of a champion race horse trainer. As the daughter she was seen as less than her brother, but during her time in the amateur racing circuit, she proves to everyone just what a woman can achieve. Balding's storytelling is quintessentially British, showcasing the stereotype that Brits only show affection to dogs and horses.

I was first drawn to My Animals when I saw an interview with Balding in which she discussed this book. Being American, I had never heard of Balding, nor did I know much of anything about racing (other than what I had picked up from movies such as National Velvet and Seabiscuit). But I wanted to read her book because it seemed so odd to me that the Queen Mum would eat breakfast with the family of the man who trains her horses.

For the most part, Balding explains the racing terms in such a way that even someone like me can understand. But it's really more than racing--I would say that the racing is actually a secondary part of My Animals. I think it's more about growing up thinking that you need to be a certain way to get recognition from your family, and that you need to meet certain expectations. I like the uniqueness of having the chronology given through which dogs where in her life or which horse she was riding, though I felt a little thrown about in some of her chapters as she would go forward or backward in time and then return to whatever event she was initially talking about. They were all related, it just seemed abrupt.

This is a good read for older teens and up, especially those who like horses.

*I am not compensated by Amazon.

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