WAR HORSE, by Michael Morpurgo

Reviewed by Robin L. Smith

War Horse

World War I, deadly and destructive, is the setting for Michael Morpurgo's best-selling novel, WAR HORSE. Narrated by a young horse, Joey, WAR HORSE is a story of trust, courage and hope in the midst of that dreadful war.

Joey's life begins innocently enough. With the help of a young English lad, Albert, he learns to pull a plow and work a farm. But when war erupts on the continent, he ships overseas with the cavalry and finds himself confronted by horrifying circumstances. Joey meets several people in the course of his journey, from Captain James Nicholls, to a young French girl named Emilie, and a kind German soldier who tries to aid Joey and his friend Topthorn.

Towards the end of his journey, confronted by massive tanks, Joey finds himself alone in no man's land - that lifeless middle ground separating enemy from enemy. Years of starvation, overwork and exposure to the elements have left him weak and injured. Ensnared by deadly barbed wire, he awaits his fate, but never forgets the young English lad who loved him.

Morpurgo wrote WAR HORSE to keep memories of the horses, men and battles of World War I alive. But he manages to transcend the "universal suffering" of the War and its "overpowering sense of waste" to reveal the inherent goodness of man and beast.

WAR HORSE was published in 1982 by Kaye & Ward Publishers (GB) and was runner-up for the prestigious Whitbread Book Award. It has also been adapted for radio, stage (National Theatre of Great Britain, 2007 - present) and film (Steven Spielberg, 2011). Clearly, Joey's story will not be forgotten.

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