Monday, 6 October 2014

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

War Horse (1982) (Egmont)
Michael Morpurgo
Grade: A-
Genre: children's
Source: own
Fiction RBC 2014: A best-selling book 

When a young colt is sold at an auction, he doesn’t expect to find a friend and loyal master in Albert, a boy at a Devonshire farm who names his new love, Joey. A beautiful red-bay foal with a distinctive cross on his nose, Joey is forced to become a farm horse by Albert’s father in order to ‘earn his keep.’ When the war breaks out, Joey is sold again to a Captain Nicholls to be used as a war horse, travelling over to France and facing the horrors of the First World War. Finding a friend in another thoroughbred horse, Topthorn, he and Joey lead a cavalry charge towards enemy lines, being captured by the Germans in the process. War Horse tells the story of Joey’s journey across Europe and Albert’s mission to be reunited with the horse he loves.

War Horse is probably the highest-profile single title on my company’s backlist, and for good reasons. With the National Theatre stage production and 2011 film directed by Steven Spielberg, the title has surged in popularity and is now translated into more than 30 languages worldwide. There were, however, no good reasons for my never having read War Horse and I have thankfully remedied this atrocious oversight.

As much as I’ve worked on War Horse-related projects, I had absolutely no idea that the novel was told from Joey’s point of view. It’s cute, endearing and really does make for wonderful reading. I love when I read books with animals in it, but reading a book with an animal as the protagonist was a whole different experience entirely (not an Animal Farm situation) and I loved it. Joey’s relationships with Albert, Captain Nicholls, Topthorn, little Emilie and her grandfather were as real as anything else you’d find in any other book between humans. It was one of the cutest things I’ve ever read.

First published in 1982, War Horse has become a classic in the last few years. This was so good, I finished it in an hour when I was commuting back home from work. There might not be a lot to War Horse literally in terms of number of words, but it still packs a powerful punch as a heart-warming story of friendship during the bloody backdrop of the First World War. I’ll be hunting down the 2011 film and going to see the National Theatre production at some point in the future, looking to get as much of Joey as I can. Anyone else who hasn’t experienced the beauty that is War Horse should get on the task immediately.

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction

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