This book had stared at me on my shelf for about a millennium or so.
So while I ago I finally picked it up, knowing full well its reputation as a classic.
It is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.
This novel, published in 1877, and the only book by Sewell who passed away shortly after it came out, became an instant classic and beloved by children all over. It’s fame led to numerous adaptations to film and other media, which added to the legend. But more importantly, its depiction of the mistreatment of animals caused changes to laws, making life better for horses from then on.
Black Beauty tells the tale from the point of view of a young horse, called of course Black Beauty, who starts life at a large estate, makes a few friends, and is reasonably well cared for at first. Soon Beauty falls prey to illness, but does recover fairly well. After, he is sent off from the estate and begins a merry go round over the years of various owners. Some are good and kind and take care of him, others not so much. The cab driver for instance, is a fine fellow, and we do miss him and his family terribly when they exist the story.
We are meant to care about Black Beauty, and feel bad when humans treat him badly, either through ignorance or cruelty, and this is a point pounded home many many times over the course of the book.
In fact, that and chunky nature of the chapters, kinda detracts from my overall enjoyment of this children’s novel.
Sewell takes on a very heavy handed moralizing tone in Black Beauty, basically continually telling us about how a certain section of humanity are vicious or idiots and hence mistreat animals. This theme is smashed home on and on and on, and while I fully appreciate the message, it becomes a bit much after awhile. At times my senses felt like it was absorbing a textbook about horse care, with facts and information I will never need in real life.
Because of this lecturey mode, the chapters often have a clunky feel, where the whole idea is simply to convey a massive whack of horse care tips. This disjointed nature was almost like Duddy Kravitz but I found it less annoying here. Maybe because this was the style of the time period it was written in, or maybe because it is a kids book and shorter sections were maybe thought required at the time.
These two gripes of mine are minor really, since the primary audience of young people will not care a whit about my issues here. They will see a tale of a wonderful animal, the Black Beauty, and the various ups and downs he faces. And they will see a treatise on being nice and kind to all animals, which is a very good message to spread.
Black Beauty might not be the best adult read, but for children it will stand the test, and impart important lessons.
…is currently reading The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling.