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Sweet William: A Memoir of Old Horse

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  59 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
John Hawkes (author of thirteen previous novels, including The Lime Twig, Adventures in the Alaskan Skin Trade, Virginie, and The Blood Oranges) is one of American fiction's most honored, irascible - and most unpredictable - talents. Now Hawkes delivers what is destined to become his most popular novel, the autobiography of a wise, witty, Sweet Willi ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 1st 1994 by Penguin Books (first published 1993)
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Black Beauty by Anna SewellThe Black Stallion by Walter FarleyKing of the Wind by Marguerite HenryA Horse Called Wonder by Joanna CampbellMisty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
Best Horse Fiction
99th out of 267 books — 130 voters
Watership Down by Richard AdamsCharlotte's Web by E.B. WhiteThe Call of the Wild by Jack LondonInto the Wild by Erin HunterTailchaser's Song by Tad Williams
Animal Xenofiction (Nonhuman POV)
110th out of 254 books — 50 voters

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Nov 27, 2008 Justine rated it really liked it
I read this years was a gift from my grandmother while I was in high school. As a lifetime horse owner, I was profoundly horrified, but riveted. It is an extremely well-written, emotional book. I eye it on my bookshelf all the time, thinking I should re-read it as an adult.
Oct 24, 2007 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Mom gave me this when I was really young, assuming it was just another horsey thing for girls who love Black Beauty...but it was one of the most profoundly fucked-up, innocence-crushing things I've ever read. Awesome!
Abimelech Abimelech
Mar 10, 2014 Abimelech Abimelech marked it as to-read
One of three picked up at closing book sale -
Sep 26, 2008 Amber rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-adult
A really amazing analysis is here:

This is a book about how humans appropriate animals in order to individuate themselves. It's a book about language, and a book that attempts to recreate a very physical, immediate animal existence, without symbolism, while at the same time parodying and symbolizing the human struggle to find ourselves in Otherness.

It's pretty fascinating stuff, if you can stomach all of Ralph and Master's long-winded stories...
Stephanie A.
Jul 19, 2012 Stephanie A. rated it liked it
I am at a crossroads. On the one hand, beyond impressed somebody wrote contemporary adult fiction that is, in fact, an equine autobiography. On the other hand, it's not much fun to read about a horse who is a self-avowed bitter misanthrope pretty much from birth, or some of the deeply disturbing imagery (traumatized forever by zombie!horse), or how a huge section of the end gets bogged down in these pointless, boring conversations between two men in which the horse essentially just stands there ...more
Denise Fraser
Apr 09, 2016 Denise Fraser rated it it was amazing
One of my favourite books.
Nov 20, 2010 Peacegal rated it it was ok
Unusual and often pretentious, Sweet William strives to be Black Beauty for grownups. Although written from a horse’s point of view, the author takes many liberties with the equine thought process. For example, after a horse is gelded, he mourns that he will not get to see his traits passed on to any foals. Come on!

Readers should be aware that although this is an animal story, it is not for children. There are numerous violent and sexual scenes throughout.
Will Byrnes
Nov 01, 2008 Will Byrnes rated it liked it
The William of the title is a thoroughbred horse. Traumatized by events in his youth, William is not your average sweet creature. In fact, he is sometimes murderous. This was an enjoyable, interesting horse tail, not one for the kiddies, but moving and well written.
Julie Christiano
Sep 04, 2011 Julie Christiano rated it it was amazing
Everyone who has loved Black Beauty ( and poor Ginger) as a child could relearn the story of a horse, from a horse, from Sweet William.
Megan Q.
Nov 16, 2013 Megan Q. rated it it was ok
Eh...maybe 2 1/2 stars rather than two. Story was okay, I think it was more the writing style that I found tedious.
Oct 28, 2008 Suzanne rated it it was amazing
This book will break your heart...beautiful, sad, and worth it.
Sally Grey
Couldn't read it. Too grim!
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John Hawkes, born John Clendennin Talbot Burne Hawkes, Jr., was a postmodern American novelist, known for the intensity of his work, which suspended the traditional constraints of the narrative.
Born in Stamford, Connecticut, and educated at Harvard University, Hawkes taught at Brown University for thirty years. Although he published his first novel, The Cannibal, in 1949, it was The Lime Twig (196
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