This morning I finished reading the short novel Warhorse, written by Michael Morpurgo. Although it is fiction, I strongly believe that what was experienced by this horse during World War I, is exactly what millions of other horses experienced, and the vast majority of those animals never returned home. The story is written from the perspective of the horse, named Joey. When I realised before I read it that it was from the perspective of the horse, rather than just a narrative, I understood why the film was done as it was. If you have seen the film you will understand what I mean.
It was a very quick read. It literally arrived in the post yesterday. I read half of it in about an hour when I went to bed last night and finished this morning on the train in about 45 minutes. Although it is short it is very emotive. More than once I had to wipe away a couple of tears. From the outset, the story rolls along quickly and there is no page space wasted by the author being overly descriptive. But he still manages to set the scene well and you find yourself being thankful that you were not in the position that this poor creature and many like him found themselves in. The friendship built between Joey and Topthorn is not unlike those that were forged between many of the young men that found themselves in the middle of the war and it truly is a great friendship. But the most endearing thing about the entire book is the bond between Joey and his owner, Albert. Their love for each other endured a war and though this story is fiction, the bond between an animal and an owner that truly understands them can never be fictionalised. I have experienced this bond myself and I feel that it is a far more pure bond than that between two humans.
A total of 8 million horses died throughout the course of World War I and I have no doubt in my mind that there would have been some miracles such as this one, there would had to have been if any made it home. I don’t think that enough respect is given to the animals (not just horses) that took part in World War I. They were led into war without choice and frequently went places that most men wouldn’t dare. This book, though short, is a great testament to those animals that went through a war that was not theirs to fight.
RATING – 9 out of 10. It made me cry on the train (if no tears, definitely a 10!).
WHO SHOULD READ IT – Animal lovers and those that like war stories.
WHO YOU’LL LOVE – You can’t go past Joey.
FAVOURITE QUOTE – From David, a young veterinary orderly who makes an appearance towards the end of the story, “…I remembers you telling us when we first came here tha a horse’s life is p’raps even more important that a man’s, ‘cos and horse hasn’t got no evil in him ‘cepting any that’s put there by men.”