Saturday, 4 August 2007

A Recommendation

This is from one of my email correspondents - I haven't read it myself, but am going to order a copy asap.

" I've just read an astonishing book by Rosalind Belben called "Our Horses in Egypt" ( Chatto & Windus £16.99 2007)

It charts two journeys - that of Griselda Romney a war widow and her formidably reticent Nanny and precocious daughter Amabel and that of Philomena a rather "marish" mare. Philomena was Griselda's mare and she was requisitioned for the army at the beginning of the 1st WW. Philomena's story is of incomprehension, loss of companions, battles, betrayal (by the British government who abandoned 22,000 loyal warhorses in Egypt at the end of the war to an often painfully neglected existence). Griselda, on hearing that Philomena may be alive, embarks on a journey to discover her and bring her home.

Talk about pony books that make you weep - this is an adult novel you definitely can't read in public!

There is a lot about the way the horses were used and cared for . Not to mention horrible veterinary practices.

It is written in quite an idiosyncratic prose style but well worth persevering with and ultimately very clever because it unsoppily conveys the "feelings" of horses that can't talk but can communicate and people who can talk but can't always communicate.

It is clearly inspired by the work of Dorothy Brooke in rescuing old war horses in the 1930s, giving them a short but happy retirement before putting them down. The Brooke animal hospital which grew out of her work is still going strong and now has a a robust educative role as well in helping poor people in developing countries learn to care for their horses and donkeys.

A very unusual and wonderful book; it doesn't have a happy ending but does have a satisfactory one."

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