In the tradition of National Velvet
and Black Beauty
, War Horse
is a moving tale of a horse and a time. The horse is Joey. The time is World War One. After bonding with thirteen-year-old Albert at the family farm, Joey is sold to the Army by Albert’s struggling dad. And so the adventure and a series of people begins. They run the course from a loving teenaged French girl to cruel Teutonic warriers, from kindly British officers to equally generous German soldiers. Joey bonds with another horse in his tour of duty, as a sort of big brother. Even without dialogue Morpurgo conveys their attachment. This is a book clearly written for a YA reader, maybe even a Y without the A. It is written simply and is easy to read. Joey is presented as a remarkable steed, and is lavished with enough appreciation to make an adult gag at times, but keep the hankies handy as there is very moving heartbreak as well. In addition, Morpurgo offers commentary on war and a look at the horrors entailed in that War To End All Wars. War Horse
is a fast, enjoyable, emotion-rich read, even for an old oater like me.
I read this in anticipation of the film release this Christmas. It should be interesting to see how much of the 2007 London play Spielberg incorporates, and how far the screenplay strays from the original text.