Ginny and the General
Sheila Martindale is poetry editor of Canadian Author and Bookman and
author of No Greater Love, her sixth collection of poetry.
Two themes run through this story for young people. One concerns the training of showdogs, and the other is the protagonist’s struggle to make a decision about her future after high school. Both threads of the story are successfully interwoven, making an interesting and fairly satisfying narrative.
Ginny Thompson breeds golden retrievers as a hobby. The story opens with one of her pups being returned by a customer who claims that the dogs temperament is unstable and that he has bit-ten his owner. Ginny accepts the young dog and tries to find out what went wrong and whether it can be corrected. With the help of her family, friends, and kennel club associates, she succeeds. Along the way she learns some things about herself and what she wants to do with her life.
The book has several good points: a great deal of information on dog handling is presented in digestible fashion; there are a few very fine descriptive passages and also some good emotional moments. On the negative side are several loose ends: events that appear significant are not referred to again, and several incidents that could have been developed are dismissed in a few sentences. And if I, as an adult, found the kids in the story just a bit too unbelievably polite and perfect, how would teenagers see them, I wonder? Ginny and Chris’s widowed father has recently married Rick’s divorced mother, but no attention is paid to the adjustment process. The kids always address each other by name, there are no negative feelings about anything, no sense of disruption or tension. Ginny’s relationship with her “boyfriend” is frightfully mature and sensible — no crazy hormones getting in the way of intelligent behaviour.
A large part of the book is dialogue, and despite some phoney and stilted conversations, it is to the author’s credit that most of the time it works.