Clare O'Beara's Reviews > Black Beauty

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
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it was amazing
bookshelves: horse-fiction, british-historical

Anna Sewell was crippled as a girl, and lay near a window where she could watch the horses in the street. She became acutely aware of their working conditions and wrote Black Beauty to tell it from a horse's point of view. This coincided with compulsory education, so for the first time the working class children could read. They read this book to their parents and this raised awareness of the problems at the time, from overwork to a lack of drinking troughs on the streets, to the cruel bearing reins on carriage horses - including those driven by members of the RSPCA. The fact that working people were so dependent on their horses was another factor.

Black Beauty starts life on a farm with his mother Duchess where he is broken in and sold for hunting and carriage driving. He has a fine life but he and his friends Ginger and Merrylegs are sold when the family moves. Beauty and Ginger are sold together but poor Ginger has trouble accepting the tight bearing rein which holds her head high. She is sold off. A boy named Joe Green looks after Beauty at this time and sometimes gets his treatment wrong as he is only learning, so Beauty gets a chill and is very ill. Later in life Beauty becomes a cab horse and the London family are utterly dependent on him for a living. He works six days a week but some horses worked seven. The winter nights see Beauty standing outside a house where a card party is in place, waiting and waiting for their customer. Rich people gave no thought to anyone serving them.
Beauty is finally sold to be a carthorse and meets the worn-out Ginger one more time. He is expected to work until he drops, literally. But a chance meeting with Joe Green who recognises him after all these years by his markings, is enough to save him and he is brought to a kind home once more.
If ever a book deserved reading, this one does.

This has been filmed a few times and to my mind the best and most faithful treatment was the 1994 version directed by Caroline Thompson, starring Sean Bean (briefly) and David Thewlis. This includes a glimpse of 'Anna Sewell' at the very end. Another version starred Mark Lester.

The horse-mad Pullein-Thompson sisters wrote Black Beauty's Clan and Black Beauty's Family, each three tales of horses' lives. Phyllis Briggs also wrote Son of Black Beauty, about a gypsy's horse. Vian Smith referred to Black Beauty in his own homage to working horses he had known, called Parade of Horses (Carousel Books) printed in hardback as Horses In The Green Valley.

Anna Sewell's gravestone was destroyed to make space in the graveyard not many years ago.
A cartoon published in a national newspaper showed a child sitting reading Black Beauty. The caption was - "The monument to Anna Sewell that they cannot destroy."
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Quotes Clare Liked

Anna Sewell
“We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words.”
Anna Sewell, Black Beauty


Reading Progress

Finished Reading
September 17, 2013 – Shelved
September 19, 2013 – Shelved as: horse-fiction
July 20, 2014 – Shelved as: british-historical

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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C.G. Such a wonderful book! It had/has a profound effect on me. I always had a soft spot for Ginger, but I didn't imagine I would end up with my own grey version of the sour tempered, once abused mare. :)


Clare O'Beara Thanks for the comment. Horse owners do meet the results of previous poor ownership, sadly.


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