Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Review: War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
Released: August 6th, 2007 (New ed.)
Grade rating: B+
In 1914, Joey, a young farm horse, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges towards the enemy, witnessing the horror of the frontline. But even in the desolation of the trenches, Joey's courage touches the soldiers around him.
Before War Horse, I'd only read one other Michael Morpurgo book, and that was Private Peaceful, another story set during the First World War. If I'm honest, I've always been a bit put off by his books, as they all seem to centre around animals. Not that I don't like animals, I just don't particularly like reading about them. I finally decided to read War Horse after several people recommended it in quick succession, and I'm really glad I did - it taught me a lot about the Great War, and introduced me to my first older fiction book narrated by an animal.
War Horse is about Joey, a red bay horse who did actually exist back in 1914, and who was painted by a Captain James Nicholls in Autumn of the same year. That's where the inspiration for this book came from, which I think is a lovely way to remember the horses and soldiers who gave their lives so that we could live ours. Nothing touches me more than stories like these (Helloooo The Book Thief!), because WWI and WWII were such important events in history, forever marked by death, sacrifice and hope.
The Joey in War Horse tells his story from the beginning of his life on a farm with his young owner Albert, right through to his involvement in the First World War. He's on the front line, he's stood in front of bullets and shrapnel, and he's the bravest horse on the field. Surrounded by violence and loss, Joey does all he can to survive and see Albert again, and helps hundreds of wounded soldiers in the process. Even though he doesn't shoot the enemy or dig trenches in the dark, he's a hero in every sense of the word. I would have liked more description of his surroundings and battles, but I can forget about that. It's a short book.
Prior to reading this book, I actually had no idea that horses were used in the First World War. I'm going to blame that on school curriculum's not bothering to teach us about important parts of our British history, and instead making us learn about it ourselves later in life. I'm glad I get the opportunity to, though, as there's so much I still need to know, both about the men and the animals who had a hand in WWI and WWII. If my Grandad hadn't survived being a Prisoner of War in Japan, I know for sure I wouldn't be here writing this review, and it's things like this that need to be continually taught to children and recorded in history books. Thanks to authors like Michael Morpurgo, stories like Joey's will reach a wider audience, and will always be in black and white on well-read pages.