London, Egmont, 2007, 182p
Michael Morpurgo is one of my favourite authors, mostly because I find him to be timeless. For the most part, his stories are about history, and he somehow manages to capture the brilliance and beauty in humanity.
War Horse is no exception. In case you do not already know the story (where have you been living!?), it is about a farm horse sent to the battlefield during World War One. Separated from his loving owner, Albert, he struggles with loneliness and brutality of war torn France.
I am not much of an animal person (yes, I am the worst), but I adored the beautiful narrative of this story. It is written from the point of view of Joey, the War Horse himself, as he journeys from rural Devon to the front line. He is a sensitive character, requiring love and affection, and as the reader, we pray that he does not get left with a villainous owner. Fortunately, his journey is plotted by the kind people he meets along the way: Albert, with whom he wishes to be reunited, Captain Nicholls, who promises Albert he will care for Joey, and Emilie, a young French girl who rescues Joey from the front line.
Because he is an animal, Joey is treated differently to a human protagonist. He is cared for by the allied army, adopted affectionately by the German cavalry, and loved tenderly by the French locals. Through Joey's eyes, all sides are equals in their humanity towards him - there are no others or enemies, just people.
The language and descriptions throughout this novel are incredibly beautiful, despite the dark subject matter. Viewing war through the eyes of the innocent horse, the reader experiences the battlefield much like a child might. As such, it is a very emotional tale, and although Joey is incredibly lucky to never come in much real danger, he experiences loss and pain as many a young soldier did. Morpurgo remains one of the most brilliant writers of our time.