War Horse by Michael Morpurgo Book Review

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Title: War Horse
Author: Michael Morpurgo
Pages: 165
Publication date: 3rd June 1982
Publisher: Scholastic Press

About the book
In 1914, Joey, a beautiful bay-red foal with a distinctive cross on his nose, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges toward the enemy, witnessing the horror of the battles in France. But even in the desolation of the trenches, Joey's courage touches the soldiers around him and he is able to find warmth and hope. But his heart aches for Albert, the farmer's son he left behind. Will he ever see his true master again?

If you had told me a week ago that I would be sat wanting to cry my eyes out after reading what is technically a children's book set in a horses POV, I would have called you mad. Crazy, even. But after making a promise to myself to read more classics, I picked out War Horse because I love books set during the war and I figured it was time to finally give it a go. I knew very little going into this story, despite it being quite an established book that has even been turned into a Hollywood blockbuster by no other than Steven Spielberg and has toured as an award winning play, which is all impressive stuff, but I wanted to see where - and why - all of these amazing adaptations had originated from.

From the very get-go, I knew this book would be hard hitting. So much happens even within the first chapter. Heck, so much happens in the book despite it coming in at less than 200 pages. It's hard to believe how short this book actually is. It felt like it was much longer than it actually was. Not in a drawn-out kinda way, more so because a lot happens throughout it. Yet, the book never seems rushed or jumpy. The pacing is fast but well told and the writing is crisp and clean with no messy, paragraph-long descriptions of battlegrounds and all-out-war-zones, but, equally, there's not a chapter in which something substantial doesn't happen, which when taking into account that this book was written with the intention of holding younger reader's interest, is probably a wise thing, but it's done well, without being too over the top dramatic.

Having said that, this book is a little darker for a story that is considered child appropriate. Whilst there's no gore or extreme scenes of violence, this is a book that is still about a war, so there are elements of death and suffering. Whilst I don't think we can cover kids in cotton wool and pretend that wars don't happen, it surprised me how honestly callous this book was at times, and whilst, yes, this book is predominantly written for the younger audience, it's not just a book for younger readers. I'm a 26 year old grown woman and it hit me hard, so it's hard to imagine what it would do to an innocent little nine year old.

Despite this, it's hard to deny that this is a truely beautiful book in many ways. It dealt with war, friendship, loyalty, love and survival. It's a story of innocence and hurt and angst. It was an uneasy read at times, but Morpugo has created such a compelling story about a boy and a horse trying to find each other in the midst of a war. It really is an emotional little book and I highly recommend it if you haven't already read it.

Verdict: ★★★★

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