Review: Michael Morpurgo – War Horse

photoAfter seeing War Horse at the cinema a couple of weeks ago, I was expecting this book to be brilliant and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a kids book, so it was very easy reading and didn’t take too long, but it was entertaining and very well written. I think it would definitely be aimed at older children, some parts were quite upsetting.

As I expected, I couldn’t help but compare the book to the film, and I did find myself waiting for certain things to happen. The film was definitely more dramatic than the book, but I suppose that’s what happens on the big screen. With a book you can fill in the story with your own imagination, but with a film they tend to spell it all out for you.

The book was slightly different from the film in that it was written completely from the perspective of Joey (the horse). It’s quite unusual for books that I read to be narrated by a non-human character, but I felt it really made this book more effective. You can feel how completely helpless he is caught up in the war, and when he’s stuck in the middle of no-man’s land, you can sense the confusion and nervousness more than you could in the film when seeing the horse through the soldiers in the trenches.

I was glad to find that one of my favourite lines in the film was actually from the book. When Joey is in no-man’s land, a soldier goes out to get him from each of the English and German trenches. It’s quite a tense moment in the book as the German soldier gets to Joey first, and you immediately think that Joey and Albert will never be reunited. However, they flip a coin to decide who gets to take Joey, and this quote from the German when he loses made me smile:

“That’s the face of my Kaiser looking up at me from the mud, and he does not look pleased with me. So I am afraid you have won.”

As it’s a kids book, you can probably tell how it ends, but not without a few hiccups along the way, including Joey being struck down with tetanus and almost being sold away from the Army in an auction at the end of the war.

All in all, I’m very glad that I read this book, although as usual I wish I had read it before I saw the film – when will I learn?! I do think after reading the book that the film was a very good book-film adaptation, one of the best I’ve seen in a while.

5-5