This is the first book I’m ticking off from my reading challenge for 2015! Yay! So “The White Horse of Zennor and Other Stories” by Michael Morpurgo is a collection of short stories. It is a children’s book, but I mean, I’m at my family home for the holidays, so I don’t have a very exciting selection. But it was a good read, and I’ll review it below!
Anyway, I’ve had this book for a long time, but never read it – because my mum bought a boxset of the Michael Morpurgo books when we were young so I had a plethora to read. The White Horse never took my fancy as a kid, but once I saw it was a collection, I decided to take the chance to read a collection (so I don’t have to buy one later). Seeing as these aren’t life changing books, I’ll have some spoilers in there.
The collection in general is quite clever, in that they’re all connected in multiple ways, but mainly through the setting of each of them. They’re all set in Zennor, Cornwall – a rustic village parish, who rely on farming, fishing and (previously) tin mining as their main industry. Morpurgo really portrays Zennor beautifully, because he writes the setting in such delicate detail, mentioning sights and smells, and you really begin to immerse yourself in the quaint atmosphere of the village.
The stories themselves are all linked, if you read them in the order that they’re written in, they’re connected (both thematically and in terms of plot) I won’t go into too much detail about how they’re connected in terms of plot, but thematically, it’s done very intelligently.
Firstly, each story features some creature of Folklore. I did a bit of research on Zennor (don’t say I never do anything for you readers), and everything about it- from it’s name to the village itself has legendary connotations. The mines that were shut down are rumoured to be haunted, which is why the first story features ghosts, they used to tell stories about brownie-like creatures called Knockers that kept the earth fertile and the crops growing in exchange for milk and potatoes (which are features in the second and fourth stories), and in fact, they even believed some of the residents could practice magic – no surprise when the fifth story is about a wiccan woman. The stories all have this link about creatures and it plays with a lot of natural/supernatural themes juxtaposed alongside each other, in the sense that they’re almost interdependent of each other.
The other theme that these stories share is a sense of childlike innocence. The main character of each story is a young child, probably none older than about twelve. Now, some of the stories are quite poignant due to the childlike narrative and when I read them, it reminded me very much of Enid Blyton’s short stories, who I used to obsessively read as a child, so it’s quite nostalgic if you do read it as an adult reader. However, from the offset, Morpurgo plays with the idea of an innocent child main. The first story in particular is very dark, and it shows how innocence can be so very fatal to the child. However, if anything, the effect it leaves on the reader is very strong, because you really do feel for these kids.
Morpurgo is an incredibly clever author. These stories aren’t particularly hard at all, and I think they can be enjoyed as an adult. When you read them as an adult you begin to appreciate his craftsmanship as an author, and how he links each story together, alongside his beautiful descriptions of the little coastal town. In all, I give this a hearty four star rating, due to the fact that the collection as a whole is so poignant and warm and in fact, really very British (if that makes sense).
But yeah, there we go! One book down, 49 to go!
Stay tuned for the next post, and if you enjoyed this review, let me know! Also if you’re doing the challenge, be sure to comment what you’ve read so far!
Lots of love,