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War Horse - not just a Children's book
War Horse - Michael Morpurgo
Member Name: AlmshoeRachy
War Horse - Michael Morpurgo
Advantages: Great story
Disadvantages: I would say too short, but it is a childrens' book
Having been to see the stage version of Michael Morpurgo's War Horse a couple of years ago, I am now eagerly anticipating the film release. I hate watching films before I have read the book, so yesterday I finally sat down to start reading it. The book was first published in 1982 and was the runner up for the Whitbread Book Award in the same year.
Like Black Beauty, the main character is a horse and the book is written from the point of view of Joey, a beautiful red bay with four matching white feet and a white cross on his face.
The book starts with the purchase of Joey by Albert Narracott's drunken father. Albert falls in love with Joey, and breaks him in to the saddle and the plough and for a while all is happy on the farm with Albert riding out on Joey whenever he can in the beautiful Devonshire countryside.
When war breaks out, Albert's father sells Joey to a Captain about to head to France. Albert is heartbroken when he finds out, but manages to get there in time to say goodbye to Joey and promises that when he is old enough he will head out there himself.
The story then follows Joey's journey through the war, initially as an English cavalry horse to his capture by the Germans where he firstly ends up pulling ambulances and then guns. He then ends up back with the English again after a heart warming encounter between a German and a British Soldier in No Mans Land.
I don't want to give too much away about the end of the book for those of you that haven't seen it so I will stop with the story line now!
The book is small, only 182 pages, and I finished it in less than a day. The book is very easy reading. I hadn't realised at first that it was a children's book. As such it is quite simplistic - the story is about war but as it is from Joey's point of view there is nothing in depth about it - no hand to hand combat or fighting scenes, just the mad dash through the enemy lines and the desire to survive in the awful conditions pulling heavy ammunitions carts around.
The book beautifully portrays the relationships being built between Joey and Albert, then Joey and Topthorn, another cavalry horse he spends much of the war with and then Joey and Emilie, the young girl who looks after him whilst he is pulling the ambulances. It shows the way that the horses were treated on both sides and the cruelty of some towards not only the horses, but towards other people too. I must admit I shed a tear or two reading some of the scenes, especially when Joey finds himself on his own with nowhere to go except away from the tanks and the guns. Morpurgo does a fantastic job of telling the story of the war and humanising both sides. Mad Old Friedrich is one of my favourite characters in the book and I felt so sorry for him - not wanting to be there but having no choice.
I finished the book on the tube this morning and it was a struggle to compose myself - had I been at home I think I would have had a bit of a blub!
It seems wrong to compare the book to the stage show as obviously this came first, but it is so short that I found the stage show put the necessary meat on the bones of a great outline. I am so excited about the film now! Part of me wishes Morpurgo had written it as an adult rather than a children's book, but this would probably cause it to lose some of its innocence and magic. I would definitely recommend!
Thank you for reading.
Summary: Can't wait for the film!