Doubles, impostors and horses: Brat Farrar

the book:

Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey

published 1949  chapter 11

[Bee] had been relieved when Eleanor offered to drive the four miles to the station at Guessgate and bring Patrick back.

"He'll have to take us as we are," Eleanor said. Bee noticed that she had not bothered to change into a dress. She was wearing the breeches and gaiters in which she had begun the morning.

Eleanor… was a little nervous of meeting this new brother, and annoyed with herself for being nervous. Her everyday clothes were her protest against her own excitement: a pretence that nothing of real moment was about to happen.

[She meets the train] They got into the car…"You couldn't have come home at a better time of the year," she said, as they scrunched over the gravel of the station yard and fled away into the landscape.

"Home," he thought. Her hair…was brushed back into a knot, as if she could not be bothered to do anything else with it.

"The blossom is just beginning. And the first foals are here.

The knees in their worn whipcord were just like a boy's. But the bare arms protruding from the jacket she wore slung over her shoulders were delicately round.

observations: This is a complicated story. Patrick Ashby disappeared as a young boy – it was presumed he had committed suicide. Now a man has appeared, claiming to be him. Eleanor (who works in the family stables – hence the clothes) is going to pick up someone whom she thinks is her long-lost brother, maybe. Bee is an aunt who lives with them.

The reader knows perfectly well that this alleged Patrick is an impostor, there is no moment of doubt. But can he get away with this imposture, and would that be good or bad, and what really did happen all those years ago on the day the original disappeared? Brat Farrar is the interloper, and the story is very cleverly told, covering various points of view as well as his, but in a casual manner. It is riveting read, and one you can turn to again and again, always enjoyable.

You can tell from Brat's first reactions to Eleanor that there is going to be one major problem with his pretending to be her brother, and it isn't the question of who will inherit the stables.

Links up with: Another imposture in The Scapegoat, and there are many more Josephine Tey entries – click on the label below.

picture is from the San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive.


  1. Moira - Oh, I like Josephine Tey's work, and I'm so glad you featured this one. I love horses and riding, and I think that's one thing that draws me to this one. That plus the connection of past to (then) present. And those stable clothes - what a great touch!

  2. thanks for linking this in Moira, cheers.

  3. Sounds like a great read...thanks for the post.

    Stopping by from Carole's November Books I Loved. I am in that list as #4.

    Silver's Reviews
    My Blog

  4. Hello Moira, I've just read this novel - and got so gripped by the beginning that I could hardly bear it. As well as being a mystery it's a wonderful novel of conscience, isn't it?
    Having a lovely time wandering around your blog and looking at all the clothes and finding passages from fondly remembered books.
    A new one that you might like is The LIttle Shadows by Marina Endicott - it's the story of three sisters entering Vaudeville and the clothes in it are quite wonderfully described partly because they matter so very much to the girls themselves.

  5. Thanks Sara - I will most definitely look for that one!


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