Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Pond - Robert Murphy

The Pond in question is a smallish lake, somewhere between Richmond and Norfolk in the state of Virginia, USA. Joey's father has a small house down there as a hunting lodge, and the Summer he's 14, Joey is allowed to drive his father's Ford pick up truck from Richmond, down to the house with his friend Bud, a couple of shotguns and a couple of fishing rods. The house is looked after by Mr Ben, a single man who fought off the demon drink and found his place out there in the countryside. After shooting a few squirrels, wishing they could catch the biggest fish in the pond, and eating food prepared by Mr Ben, the boys must return to the city, but Joey knows he wants to return to the pond again and again. During the next year, he does just that. Catches some fish, shoots a few more blameless squirrels, finds a real friend in a dog belonging to a poverty-stricken family who live nearby, and comes to understand how life outside a city really works.
 I was reminded of A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter although the main character in that book was of course, female. The Pond was published in 1964, although set around 1917. It certainly had more of an early than mid 20th century feel to it which made it more "real".  Republished in the last couple of years and now available as paperback and kindle, this is worth your time if you like a straightforward story of growing up without vampires, magic or other stuff.  For those drawn towards the circle of life of death in the animal world, this wouldn't be a bad start.   Perhaps this book was an early runner in the eco-world? Joey certainly comes to know and understand the way animals live and die, and how the pond and the land surrounding it is so important to them. And during the course of the book he comes to question his own feelings about hunting. Some nicely drawn other characters in here too, all of whom teach the youngster something.
At only 224 pages (in the hardback edition) this is not a long book, but very readable and describes the thoughts and deeds of Joey very well, and understandably. I liked it.