Book Reviews

Black Beauty: A Modern Review

Author: Anna Sewell

Review by Samantha Hobden

Publication: 2019 by Palazzo Editions Limited

Illustrated by Christian Birmingham

Even if the love of horses does not run through your veins, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell is an incredibly well known story told emotionally through the eyes of this beautiful horse that everyone has heard of.

With over fifty million copies sold, Black Beauty is one of the best selling books of all time. Author Anna Sewell composed the novel in the last years of her life where she remained housebound. Thankfully she lived to see her novel become a success upon publication but sadly passed away only five months later. However, she would never be able to realise how loved and cherished her story of Black Beauty would become.

First published in 1877, there has been numerous books, films and tv series telling Black Beauty’s story through the generations. I was invited to review the latest edition of Black Beauty with its enchanting illustrations by Christian Birmingham. I had read the book many decades ago in my childhood and remember well the tv series back in the seventies which I loved. When the book arrived, turning the pages of this charming hardback edition immediately transported me back to Victorian times which the story is based.

Spoken through Black Beauty’s eyes, the story is incredibly emotional depicting the trials and tribulations of this amazing horses life. You feel very much in the body of Beauty with his feelings of love and despair which come across so well in Anna Sewell’s writing. From the first chapter enjoying life in lush spring meadows with his mother, you follow this horse through his entire life being passed from home to home and sold to owners who loved him or those that simply used him as a workhorse.

Being a horse lover, you cannot help but feel sad and troubled recounting neglect and hardship the horse’s experience in the hands of abusive owners. It is, however, written with understanding and consideration giving a true account of the time. A horse living in the Victorian era had a life which was purely working hard for their master. Those living a life leisurely at grass and ridden for light enjoyment was a privilege for very few horses of that time. Thankfully there are moments of complete compassion in Black Beauty’s life with owners that loved him with all their hearts. Following this loyal and majestic horses life and the times shared with other equine characters, Black Beauty is a very inspiring and warming read.

This latest edition of Black Beauty is a book for life and it has been a real joy to read this equestrian story again. I absolutely loved the charming illustrations which complement the story in the modern age but also depicts completely Victorian times. The detail in the drawings is a delight with a mix of colour and pencil illustrations. The colour images I felt particularly drawn to and would make amazing prints. To have them all housed in this top quality book telling this classic story is a gem.

Every bookshelf should have a copy of Black Beauty and this latest edition would make a lovely gift for any horse lover or in fact anybody that is a fan of classic novels. This book would also be a great introduction to the younger generation too, who have not read the story or actually heard of Black Beauty. I urge you to add this book to your collection as a keepsake, to then hand down to ensure this beautiful story will continue to be told.

To purchase a copy, please visit Amazon

Image credits: Haynet