On a Hoof and a Prayer by Polly Evans
You may remember that a few months ago I reviewed 'Fried Eggs with Chopsticks' detailing Polly Evans' travels around China. With foreign travel firmly off the menu at the moment, I wanted to be transported somewhere new and so I turned to Polly Evans again.
Polly Evans decides to fulfil a childhood dream to learn how to ride a horse, but rather than attending the local pony pony club decides to learn in Argentina amongst the gauchos. Falling in love with riding, she travels around Argentina taking every opportunity to ride as much as she can.
Reading between the two books, it does seem that Polly Evans truly fell in love with Argentina, far more than China. And I have to say given the descriptions of the landscapes and horsey adventures, I'd love to go!
As always, Evans blends the book beautifully with facts about the region including various attempts by missionaries to settle in the area which usually ended disastrously. We also learn about the Welsh-speaking communities in Patagonia formed when Welsh nationals chose to leave the UK in order to further the Welsh language and way of life.
But it is Polly Evans sheer joy of learning to ride that really shines. Starting out at Estancia Los Potreros on the horse Idolo, literally meaning Idol, she quickly falls in love with the landscape and riding. We learn that Argentinian riding differs from traditional English riding, with a different type of saddle and a longer stirrup.
From there she visits Buenos Aires where we learn about Eva Peron and her fascinating life and equally fascinating death. I was unaware that her body had been moved all around the world before being laid to rest in La Recoleta Cemetery. When Eva Peron passed away, her embalmed body was displayed for the world to come and pay their respects. Once her husband Juan Peron was overthrown from power, her body was removed for 16 years, eventually buried in a crypt in Milan, Italy. Following Juan's exile to Spain in 1971 the body was exhumed and was kept in Juan Peron and his third wife Isabella's dining room. Eventually Eva's body was returned and buried in La Recolata Cemetery in Buenos Aires. Polly Evans muses that Isabella must have been quite a lady allowing her husband to be buried with his previous wife, not to mention giving up her dining room for all that time.
And indeed, it is this balance that Polly Evans maintains throughout the book - between information and comment. We get to learn about Argentina and it's gentle and kind people. She talks about the legacy of the Falklands War and everywhere she goes feels perfectly safe and is welcomed to the country. It is clear that Polly Evans fell in love with Argentina, its people and horse-riding and it is delightful to read.
So if you are looking to escape somewhere glamorous but are unable to leave home, or if you are a keen horse-rider then definitely give this a go!