View from a Window by F. Ruth Howard. Morrow (1942), 341 pp.
The snowstorm on a fall day in 1941 signals bad news for beautiful concert pianist Janet Elliot. News of her divorce hits the New York papers. Analysis of the injury to her hand, incurred in a horse riding accident, shows that she will never play again. And, worse yet, she learns that her beloved younger brother, an RAF pilot, has been killed in action. Janet decides to follow the brother’s earlier advice and try to return their horse, McTavish, to competitive steeplechase racing. That entails a move to a training facility in California, specifically to an inn in the hills east of San Diego. There she meets Richard Olivant, a tall and masterful ex-college professor with a cynical streak. He’s also training a horse -- Fitzgerald, his large and sleek black stallion -- for steeplechase competition. Will the rival trainers get along?
A silly question, of course. The novel convincingly traces Janet’s deepening feelings for Olivant, her growing ability to control McTavish, and her brightening attitude toward the future. The book has less success unraveling Olivant’s personality, which may be appropriate because the story is told entirely from Janet’s viewpoint. The credibility of the training scenes can probably only be judged by horse-lovers. Any reader, however, will be able to appreciate the climactic scene at the racetrack, which is told with power and verve. Less impressive are Howard’s descriptions of landscape, which lack context, and her persistent use of fictional place names (such as the Italian “San Pietro” for San Diego). Fortunately, some stylistic affectations at the start of the book disappear after a few chapters. All in all, modern readers seeking a love story with horses (or a horse story with lovers) are likely to enjoy the book.