Black Beauty – A (Mini) Review

Title: Black Beauty
Author: Anna Sewell
Publisher: Cathay Books

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A brief synopsis (via Goodreads):

Black Beauty spends his youth in a loving home, surrounded by friends and cared for by his owners. But when circumstances change, he learns that not all humans are so kind. Passed from hand to hand, Black Beauty witnesses love and cruelty, wealth and poverty, friendship and hardship . . . Will the handsome horse ever find a happy and lasting home?

Like many, many little girls around the world, I was obsessed with horses growing up. I was fortunate enough to have a mother who was also into horses- so from the age of seven to nineteen, I spent my evenings and weekends, rain and snow and sun, with my horses. It’s something I will always treasure, always long for; and whilst the horse we owned from when I was nine to twenty is now living with a good family friend of ours, and I’m comforted by the knowledge she is safe and happy in her retirement, I know I will (and have) scarcely visit her. As much as I miss her, being a student over 100 miles from her just wasn’t fair; she needed someone who had the time to spend with her, and as much as my mother tried, her health couldn’t allow it for more than my first year away.

I grew up with this book, with the film. The scene (technically a spoiler alert) where Ginger is carted away and you can just see her tongue loll out the side still haunts me to this day.

I revisited this book for an English Literature module I had during my undergrad, The Mark of the Beast: Animals in Literature. And whilst I still very, very much enjoyed revisiting this childhood classic, I was… undoubtedly thrown by it. Don’t study your childhood classics, kids.

My whole study revolved around how the narrative was an allegory for slavery and racism, and how the horses were metaphors for women and their place in Victorian hierarchy.

Still, evaluating Sewell’s work through these different lenses didn’t remove the nostalgia of the book. I remember why I adored it as a child, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to re-read – even if it was for a module! (This was one of the 4 books I actually read for my course in the whole 3 years I studied… oops).

Beauty as a character is so lovable, and utterly distressing- I feel like I cannot articulate the anguish properly; but if you know, you know. I cried whilst reading, and I think I always will. The ending to the novel – ‘My troubles are all over, and I am at home; and often before I am quite awake, I fancy I am still in the orchid at Birtwick, standing with my old friends under the apple trees.’ – reads like poetry to me. Chokes me up even quoting it (though that could be the wine…).

My childhood rating still stands: 5/5

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