Review of the Week #1

Title: Black Beauty
Author: Anna Sewell
Originally Published: 1877 by Jarrold & Sons


So, first weekly review!  This week’s review is Black Beauty, one of the books that heavily influenced my love of books (and horses).  As you may have guessed, this is one that I really enjoyed and still do.  This is the first and only book that Anna Sewell published, and has become a classic, and deservedly so.  Anna Sewell loved horses and was concerned about the mistreatment of the magnificent animals, something that really shows in her writing.

Black Beauty is a horse in England in the mid nineteenth century (roughly).  The story is told in the first person and goes from early life to old age, telling the story from the perspective of the horse. Animals are the main voices of the story, with humans playing more of a background role.  Over the course of his life, Black Beauty is sold to different owners on a number of occasions for varying reasons and works in different professions, like pulling a carriage, pulling a cab, general labour, giving the reader a taste of the different capacities horses were used in and what it was like for them, and how an owner could make all the difference.  He makes a variety of friends along the way and readers learn their stories.  More importantly though, readers get to see humans through the eyes of the animals.  Some of the people who Black Beauty ends up with are wonderful, some are just decent, and some are cruel.  Readers also get to see a variety of lifestyles, as some of the owners are well off, and some are working-class, and how they treat and view the animals in their care.

On that note, animal cruelty is something that is depicted and discussed in the book by the animals themselves, who talk about the strange human habits of trying to make them ‘prettier’ through different means like tail docking or cutting the ears of puppies into a more aesthetically pleasing shape, and many others.  More broadly, we also see how the actions and behaviours of humans affect the animals, good or bad, deliberate or accidental.  And I will say that it is also quite realistic in that not all of the endings for the characters are happy.

I find that this novel advocates for treating animals well without becoming overly preachy or going for guilt-trips, like some organisations and commercials today.  It points out how animals can and do form strong bonds with people and how the two can interact well and enrich one another’s lives.  It also goes into the bonds that animals form with one another, and how their individual histories can affect them.   While many of the cruel practices shown in the book have fallen out of fashion today, there are still similar things going on.

For the writing itself, I found it very easy to read.  Normally I find that a lot of books from the same era are really hard to get through, because of the style of writing that was popular, and because the English language itself has changed quite a bit.

So, all in all, definitely a book I would recommend for all ages, and especially to people who love horses.

Feel free to put any thoughts/suggestions in the comments!


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