Horses! Again! Not a fan. I don’t know what a horse did to me in a previous life, but the only horsey thing I can think of that I’ve loved in the past 29 years is Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken – remember that movie? My aunt used to take us horseback riding when we were little and I was never impressed. Perhaps Mr. Ed had something to do with it – I hated that show.
Anyway, I had a copy of Black Beauty growing up (who didn’t?), but I never read the thing due to my horse aversion. I would hold it, smell it, and generally love it – but no reading about the horse inside was allowed. A strange child – absolutely. And to be honest, the only reason I bought the book as an adult is because it was part of the Penguin Threads editions. I feel like I should write Penguin a letter now and thank them profusely for providing the proper incentive to read a book about a horse.
Black Beauty tells the story of a horse living life in England during the Victorian era. I was surprised to learn that the narration is told by Black Beauty himself! Getting into a horse’s mind was quite fascinating and even I crumbled a bit under his trials and tribulations. Beauty goes through many owners – some wonderful, many wicked – and learns much about the ways of humans and horses alike. Seeing humanity through his eyes was somehow more powerful, more engaging, and extremely more damning than through ordinary human eyes. You’ll be hard-pressed not to shed a few tears at Beauty’s ending, even if you have been known to turn a cold shoulder to these beautiful, majestic creatures.
Sewell’s writing is nothing less than lyrical. Every so often, I did find myself slogging through some of the more obvious preachy moments about such things as bearing reigns and the like. Characters would have conversations entirely devoted to making a rather bland point about how to rightly treat a horse. I’d sooner have seen these ideas depicted through the novel’s actions rather than repeatedly summed up through dialogue. But I know Sewell’s intentions weren’t necessarily to write a masterpiece, but instead to bring light to a troubling problem.
I also found Sewell’s rainbow of human characters well done. Yes, many are morally upright and well behaved and others are downright cruel – fairly black and white. But she also populates her story with all the in-between which always makes for more convincing moral tales in my own opinion.
Don’t let the horse keep you away from this story! It was lovely and a great book to share with a child you know and love. So many important lessons, fun characters, and a swiftly plotted pace can only make this book the beloved classic known and beloved by so many over the past decades. Spending an afternoon with Black Beauty was time more than well spent!
I’m on a roll with my Classics Club reads this year! How about you?
14 thoughts on “Black Beauty by Anna Sewell”
I had Black Beauty too! And never read it. Less because I didn’t like horses and more because I had already be broken by Sounder, Call of The Wild, and Where the Red Fern Grows. I couldn’t take any more noble animals dying books. I had no doubt that it was probably good, but I had to protect my heart!
Nicole — you’re so right — I hadn’t thought of that but those books really have broken me for ‘noble animal’ novels. I really can’t stomach them anymore!
When I think of those books and how good they were at the time, I have NEVER reread a single one. The plot line seems to be people are evil, animals will die. I’m not sure what else I learned. And you’re right to suspect the moralizing. I’ve reread other books I loved way back when (no animals were harmed in the making of those books), and couldn’t take it.
I haven’t wanted to reread any of those sob-worthy books from childhood either. I’m pleased to report that Black Beauty doesn’t die at the end of the story (spoiler alert!!!) which actually surprised the hell out of me. I kept bracing myself for certain doom. And the moralizing is definitely the worst aspect of this book. If it hadn’t been for Black Beauty’s unique voice and the gorgeous writing – I might have given up.
This post made me laugh because, well, I just love the horse dislike. I was one of those girls who ADORED horses, but in a vacuum, so to speak, having never met a living horse until I was an adult. But I was mad for horses — I devoured horse books like it was my job — and I loved this book as a kid. I wonder if I could take it now — the moralizing might kill me.
I think the moralizing would bother any adult. Just so overwrought. I think most girls loved horses. I don’t know what was wrong with me. Their teeth were terrifying.
I have never read this book either, but I blame that on the fact that I only became a serious reader in my 20’s. I need to read this one, because the way you describe it, it sounds beautiful. I might get my dander up over people being mean to horses though, as animal cruelty is a huge pet peeve of mine. Terrific and very thoughtful review. I need to grab this one off my daughter’s shelves, and give it a read!
Don’t worry – plenty of characters will be joining you in the dander uprising! A lovely little book easily read in an afternoon!
I agree, it’s a great book. I remember it fondly from way back when.
One not to be missed, for sure!
Sounds like this book might be chipping away at your horse aversion.
I huge chunk has been chipped! Damn horses.
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