Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

"Master said God had given men reason, by which they could find out things for themselves, but He had given animals knowledge that did not depend on reason, and which was much more prompt and perfect in its way, and by which they had saved the lives of men."

Every once in a while, I run across a book that I end up wishing that I had discovered as a child. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell's classic novel about the life of a kind and gentle horse, is one of those books. I, like many other girls, went through a major horse phase when I was little. I had a bunch of horse figures to play with (my favorite being the battery-powered Barbie horse, High Stepper), I loved cartoons and TV shows that featured horses, and I read a selection of horse books, including the Saddle Club series and The Black Stallion. For some reason, I never came across Black Beauty, and it's too bad, because I would have loved it in the way only a kid can love a book.

The plot of Black Beauty is pretty straightforward. The story is told from the point of view of Black Beauty himself, and it follow him as he moves from owner to owner over the course of his life. Sometimes his masters are kind and loving. Other times his masters are cruel and careless. No matter what his situation is, Black Beauty maintains a sweet temper and always tries to do his best. Peppered in with his story are the stories of the other horses and people that he interacts with, many of which are tragic. There is a strong message running throughout of the importance of kindness and helping others.

Sewell also advocates for animal rights quite deliberately throughout the novel, using both the equine and human characters to comment on everything from the ethics of using different types of horse equipment to the dangers of hunting parties, to the conditions of cab horses in London. Her respect and admiration for horses shines throughout the entire novel. Animal lovers of all types will feel at home in these pages and find themselves agreeing with Sewell that, "...with cruelty and oppression it is everybody's business to interfere when they see it."

Aside from likeable characters and noble themes, Sewell's work has an inherent charm to it. This book made me want to move to the country and buy a horse, and that's not a thought I've ever had as an adult before. There's an intangible kind of magic at work in its pages - the kind that makes you want to snuggle up under a cozy blanket with a cup of tea and dive into the story. For me, Black Beauty ranks right up among The Secret Garden and The Wizard of Oz as books that all kids should have the pleasure of experiencing when they're little. This goodhearted little classic was a fun read and an excellent addition to my 2017 challenge lists.

Challenge Tally
Back to the Classics: (A Classic About an Animal) 2/12
Classics Club: (#21 on my list) 2/100
Popsugar Challenge: (A book from a nonhuman perspective) 2/40
Mount TBR: previously owned 2/60


  1. Lovely review. I know I have to get around to this classic sometime. There are very few books written from the perspective of an animal. The Call of the Wild is the only one I've read, but I'm sure there are a few others...hmmm, maybe Riki Tiki Tavi? My choice for a Classic about (or with an animal in the title). The Wings of the Dove...which is NOT about an animal...too bad. I probably would have enjoyed an animal story more. http://tinyurl.com/movpq7o

    1. Thanks for the comment! I've read a couple Henry James novels, but I haven't tried The Wings of the Dove yet. I can see from your review that you didn't like it all that much. Similar to you, I didn't enjoy The Ambassadors, so I'm thinking I might feel the same once I get around to it.


So, what do you think?