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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absalutely marvelous!
i thouroughly enjoyed this book, as i am too a young rider. It describes the feelings of competing that i know, only too well. When you read this book, its like totally imersing yourself into the horse world, and if you have never experienced that, it is quite a feeling. i strongly recommend it to all people and especially those that either know horses, or like them...
Published on 9 Jan 2000

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3.0 out of 5 stars National Velvet
This is very dated now but was once obligatory reading for horse-mad girls, if only because there wasn't a lot of other such books. Then Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney and Donald Crisp made the film and it took off big-time.
Velvet Brown lives in a small English town with four sisters and a little brother, Donald. He's a right pain and the older girls are all...
Published 21 months ago by Clare O'Beara


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absalutely marvelous!, 9 Jan 2000
By A Customer
i thouroughly enjoyed this book, as i am too a young rider. It describes the feelings of competing that i know, only too well. When you read this book, its like totally imersing yourself into the horse world, and if you have never experienced that, it is quite a feeling. i strongly recommend it to all people and especially those that either know horses, or like them and what to find out more about them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than the National, 24 Jun 2013
This review is from: National Velvet (Paperback)
National Velvet is a book about those who dream; and for those who dream "great, galloping passion(s)" as one critic has described it. Many people will be able to relate to young Velvet Brown, a dreamer of a child who wears braces on her teeth. She cuts pictures of racehorses from newspapers to create her own stable of imaginary horses. Her creative mind makes them live for her - and the reader - as she holds them in front of her as she gallops along the Downs, and polishes them until their paper bodies take on the sheen of real horse coats. The reality is that she lives in an ordinary, working family whose members have nevertheless dared to dream big, passionate dreams. The author is able to play with, and blend, reality and fantasy in a truly magical way to make the so called "ordinary" quite extraordinary. The curious coincidences in the book - Velvet dreaming so hard to get a horse that she ends up with several, for instance - are simply what happens if people have big enough dreams, if they believe in them totally and devote themselves to their quest. That's one of the messages of the book. But dreamers need people who are grounded in reality; and It's Mi, the former stable lad, who provides the practical knowledge to support Velvet in her aim to ride in Britain's most famous race, the Grand National.

Reading Enid Bagnold's work makes connections with other authors. I've always found the book reminiscent of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy, with its odd yet functioning family. Velvet's mother, like Gertrude Groan, looms monstrously but lovingly in the background. In the place of Gertrude's cats and birds, we have Velvet's sister and her canaries: the little birds are kept in cages and represent the dreams of the family at night in a way that reminds me of Under Milk Wood. Mrs Brown, having achieved her own personal moment of fame as a cross Channel swimmer in her youth, has given up her own dreams to have children and grown fat in the process; she warns her tiny daughter, whose hands on the reins are like "piano wires", to never get fat. Donald, the son of the family, is a strange but totally believable little boy. Their father is a butcher, his character more indistinctly expressed than those of the rest of the family, and so he is more remote to the reader; but clearly he is a provider and carer for his children, a stable point that enables the family to function and dream. Even Miss Ada, the strong-willed pony, is part of the family dynamics.

The book is really about the manifestation of dreams, how dreams are made into reality. It's a book that set the standard for hundreds of inferior examples to miss; but some genre writers, inspired and enthralled by the sheer audacity of Bagnold's theme, have risen to the challenge. The other thing that occurred to me when I re-read it recently is that it's very British, it's very working class (despite, or perhaps because of, Bagnold's wealthy background) and it could be usefully categorised amongst the working class social novels which flourished from the 1920s to the 1960s. The life it presents can be grotesque and appealing at the same time. Its significance may have faded as women have set and achieved more and more goals in every area of life; but if you put it into its historical context, the reason for the book's lasting fame becomes clearer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars As beautiful as the South Downs landscape, 12 July 2013
This review is from: National Velvet (Paperback)
If you haven't read this classic horsey tale by Enid Bagnold, you must MUST read it. Even if you are not a fan of "horsey" tales, it is the classic story of the underdog who comes good and is just so beautifully written. The story is, of course, very well-known - of the outsider and the undersized girl who go on to achieve fame and fortune in the Grand National (and at a time when female jockeys were not allowed in the race); and you are probably already familiar with the story. What you won't know if you haven't read the book, is just how well Bagnold brings Velvet and her oversized mother (who once won a lot of gold for swimming the channel), her horse-mad sisters and her unruly baby brother, her diminutive father and Mi, the son of Mrs Brown's channel swimming trainer, and the man who goes on to train Velvet and the Pie to win the race, to life. The atmosphere in the Brown home is palpable, it is so realistically drawn. The heat from the stove and the kitchen cooking smells almost leap out of the pages to greet you. And then there are the horses - the five horses which Velvet inherits and the Pie himself. This is a story of courage and above all, heart - of reaching inside yourself and achieving something when everybody else says you can't do it. It is the ultimate tale of the underdog coming good. It will leave you with goosebumps, the story is so triumphant.

Along with the tale of the underdog, there's a lot going on in this book - there's the portrayal of England in 1930s Britain, the rural countryside and the beautiful backdrop of those chalk white cliffs which epitomise England so much. Indeed, one can almost see the embodiment of England in the Pie himself (with his black and white patches) - or so I once argued in a University essay (and there's must have been something in it, I got a decent mark, I seem to recall...)
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5.0 out of 5 stars Old book. Modern read., 20 April 2013
By 
BJB (Cardiff, Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: National Velvet (Paperback)
This is a really lovely book. Despite being written in the early part of the twentieth century, it has a very modern feel and believable, individual characters. Particularly suited to girls, due to the horse theme and excellent, liberal mother of the family. A really good character study with a wild, adventurous concept that will enthrall readers of all ages.
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3.0 out of 5 stars National Velvet, 26 July 2012
By 
Clare O'Beara - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: National Velvet (Paperback)
This is very dated now but was once obligatory reading for horse-mad girls, if only because there wasn't a lot of other such books. Then Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney and Donald Crisp made the film and it took off big-time.
Velvet Brown lives in a small English town with four sisters and a little brother, Donald. He's a right pain and the older girls are all concerned about nail polish, hair dos and boyfriends. Velvet however wants a horse. There is a lot of social comment and discussion which gets in the way of the horse story and can make it tedious especially for younger readers.

Velvet gets her wish when a half-broken piebald horse is sold to her cheaply; in the film it's a bright bay. She names him The Pie and with the help of a wandering young stable worker who spots the horse's potential she trains him up for steeplechasing. Her mother once swum the English Channel and was rewarded with gold sovereigns, which she now uses as a race entry fee for Velvet and The Pie in the Grand National. Perhaps Mrs Brown didn't like Velvet very much, given that this was the most dangerous race in Britain at the time, with severe obstacles which have now been reduced because so many horses were killed. Another snag is that The Pie was not a Thoroughbred and has never raced. Enid Bagnold the author says that "for all I can find a donkey could have entered at that time, provided he was the right age." And a third snag is that girls were not allowed to be jockeys. So Velvet has to pretend to be a foreign boy jockey who doesn't speak English or much of anything. Altogether it has been described as a farce by racehorse trainers.

The race itself is a great thrill and at the time news passed by telegraph as there was no live coverage, so it takes a while before news gets back to her home town. When news arrives, Velvet's parents address each other by first name for the first time in the book - it's always been Mrs Brown and Mr Brown between them - and shut up shop for the day.

As a follow-up Bryan Forbes wrote International Velvet about Velvet's teenage niece Sarah Velvet Brown who rides a three-day-event horse called Arizona Pie to the Olympics. This was filmed with Tatum O'Neal as Sarah and Nanette Newman as Velvet, also included Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Plummer and Bryan Forbes, who also directed. Most horsey people believe that this is a better book and film.

For rather better stories about young people and racehorses try reading Vian Smith, whose books such as King Sam, The Minstrel Boy, The Horses of Petrock, Come Down the Mountain and The Lord Mayor's Show are harder to find but far better written and are by a racehorse trainer. For American books try Walter Farley's books about The Black Stallion.
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10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I thought this book was great!, 6 Mar 2000
By A Customer
I loved this book about Velvet brown and how she gets her horses and how she ran in the race
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National Velvet
National Velvet by Enid Bagnold (Paperback - 5 Nov 2007)
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