Trigger Warning: This novel and its review contain descriptions of and mention the following topics: physical abuse, animal cruelty, death.
Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars
Year Published: 1877
Black Beauty is the quintessential book for animal lovers. Anna Sewell was one of the first authors to narrate a novel from the point of view of an animal, utilizing anthropomorphism, and observing the gamut of animal husbandry.
As I said, Black Beauty the horse narrates the story of his life, starting from the English country stable he was born at, and describing life with his mother (Duchess) and the other stable horses that he grew up with including Rob Roy, his elder half brother. He describes Farmer Grey, his owner who kindly trained him to be a diligent work horse. When Black Beauty is grown, he is sold to Squire Gordon, a very kind man, and Beauty moved to his new home at Birtwick Park, where he meets Ginger, a fiesty chestnut mare with a traumatic past, and Merrylegs, a kids pony. Beauty also receives care from his groom, John Manly, and the stable boy, Joe, who showed Black Beauty kindness and compassion.
Unfortunately, when Squire Gordon’s wife become ill, he must sell the horses, and from here Beauty goes through a series of ownerships as he becomes a carriage horse, a cart rental horse, a taxi horse. Each ownership varies in the treatment of Beauty, but often he is neglected and overworked. However, Beauty remains a dependable horse, always aiming to do his best for those demanding performance. From here, Sewell relays the importance of respect to animals and their care.
What Makes it a Classic?
Sewell was one the first champions of animal welfare in literature. In Black Beauty, she shows the impact of mistreatment on animals, from the tireless hours of work, to the discomfort of certain tack that works against the animal’s natural instincts, to the lack of dignity and respect for their service to humankind. Through anthropomorphism, or the act of giving human emotions to animals, Sewell shares her observations of the treatment or mistreatment of horses in the 1800s. This made Black Beauty a classic because it spurred a lot of discussion and change for the better treatment of working animals.
TL/DR: Black Beauty by Anna Sewell is a classic novel about a horse named Black Beauty, as he recalls his life through his point of view.
Read it? YES. It is every animal lover’s go to classic read, and most especially horse lovers.
Recommend it? Absolutely, but be prepared to cry during a few parts of the novel.
Buy it? YES!!!
Watch the movie? OMG YES!!! It was one of my favorites growing up, but the image of Ginger on the wagon bed WILL haunt you- so probably not suited for really young children.
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- Joey by Jennifer Marshall Bleakley