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A review of the anna sewells only novel black beauty

The first part of the book deals with Beauty's birth in a meadow, his time spent as a foal with his mother and the advice she gives him to behave well to be treated well. Then he is sold to the Squire Gordon who is a horse lover and cares very well for his animals.

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Here he meets the grooms John Manly and James Howard who are loving, neat and efficient. Beauty spends the better part of three years here and makes friends with the other horses: Ginger, Merrylegs and Sir Oliver.

This idyllic life ends with the beginning of the second part where Beauty is sold, along with Ginger to Earlshall Park. The life is harder there and the painful bearing rein is used on the horses.

Book: Black Beauty

A riding accident causes his knees to be ruined and he is sold as a job horse to a new master who cannot take the trouble of rearing a horse and sells him again.

Next, Beauty is sold to a hardworking cab driver called Jerry. On the runs in the streets he meets his friend Ginger who is miserable due to the harsh treatment meted out to her and subsequently he watches her corpse being carted away a few months later.

Jerry falls ill and Beauty is sold again.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell – review

The horse then passes from one master to another, most of whom overwork and mistreat him till at last he is sold to the Blomefield family for whom his old groom Joe Green is working. Green recognizes Beauty and he lives out his last days in peace and happiness. This book was written at the end of the 19th century by Anna Sewell, a lady who was crippled from her teenage.

Black Beauty

As a result she had a great interaction with horses and understood them well. This book was the first of it's kind, written from the point of view of an animal and hence it captured the imagination of the public in a very novel way.

It went a long way in ensuring better treatment of horses, hitherto seen as mere beasts of utility and paved the way for humane treatment of all animals.

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The book is written in the first person from the perspective of a horse. The language is extremely simple and the point of view is very consistent for its time. The book moves at a relaxing pace and is extremely absorbing without being dull or loose.

‘Black Beauty

Plot points are tight and the other characters, whether human or horses, are complex and completely fleshed out thus adding to the well crafted feel of the book. True to style, the human characters are explored more distantly than the other horses, as befits the perspective of a horse.

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I was 9 when I first read this book and since then it has always remained my favourite. While actively promoting animal welfare, the book also deals with the timeless human values of companionship and compassion.

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Also, most unusually for its time, the book explores the philosophy of wrongdoing through ignorance and its cure through knowledge as exhibited by the groom Little Joe. It paved the way for other animal based classics such as those by Jack London and Rudyard Kipling. A treat for readers of all ages.