War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

 Summary ~ War Horse ~ In 1914, Joey, a beautiful bay-red foal with a distinctive cross on his nose, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges toward the enemy, witnessing the horror of the battles in France. But even in the desolation of the trenches, Joey’s courage touches the soldiers around him and he is able to find warmth and hope. But his heart aches for Albert, the farmer’s son he left behind. Will he ever see his true master again?

War Horse is the story of Joey and his master Albert.  They meet on Albert’s family’s farm when his father buys Joey at an auction.  Joey tells his story like other literary horses before him, most well known is Black Beauty.  Joey’s a wonderful spirit and narrator who finds himself sold into the British Calvary in WWI.  A scary time for any soldier, he is faced with devastating conditions, heartbreak and danger.

War Horse was published in 1982 and is a young adult novel.  There was definitely a hallow feeling to the story.  In my opinion, when compared to young adult novels such as The Book Thief (one of my all time favorite books!) and The Boy In The Striped Pajamas which both take place during WWII, War Horse is a very light read.  Yes it covers the difficult topic of war but it is an easier read by far.  Easier on the mind.

I had to read War Horse because every time I saw the trailer in the theatre I found myself crying uncontrollably.  I had to find out what happened in the story so that I would hopefully stop crying but I discovered this morning that even though I know that all ends well, that movie horse makes me weep like a little girl.  Hubby says I am not allowed to see the movie. 

I’m glad I know the story though and enjoyed Joey’s voice and liked the story that Michael Morpurgo set him in.  I would recommend War Horse for advanced middle school aged readers and with the film coming out December 23rd it would be a great opportunity to read the book before going to the theatre.  If you are lucky enough (and I have my fingers crossed that I will be) War Horse has also been adapted for the stage.  It is a five time Tony Award winning play in New York City brought over from London.  The most incredible attraction to the play is the fact that the horses of the story are life-size puppets handled by the most amazing puppeteer.  The visual impact of these puppets is breathtaking!

{Rating 3.75 out of 5}

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Summary ~ The Paris Wife ~ A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and a love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley.

A heartbreaking portrayal of love and torn loyalty, The Paris Wife is all the more poignant because we know that, in the end, Hemingway wrote that he would rather have died than fallen in love with anyone but Hadley.

Before reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain the only familiarity I had with Hemingway was the look-a-like contest held in Key West, FL every year and some of country singer Kenny Chesney’s tunes and his admiration for the writer.  Having just finished The Paris Wife I feel more familiar with the man but am left wanting to know more and feeling left in the dark a bit  when it comes to Hemingway.  He proved to be very interesting to read about. 

I had the great pleasure of meeting Paula McLain and listening to her read from and talk about her exceptional novel The Paris Wife a couple of months ago at the 2011 Gaithersburg (MD) Book Festival.  As I started to read her book last week I could hear her effervescent and charming voice reading her words in my head.  Quickly Hadley’s voice took over for Ms. McLain and I was happy to have her company for a week.  The Paris Wife is a book unlike any I’ve read.  It read like a novel told in first person most of the time but at moments a biography about Hemingway popped up from the pages and introduced me to the legendary writer in a very informative way.  I found myself feeling like a voyeur into the city of Paris in the roaring 20’s and the lives of Hadley, Ernest and their very interesting friends.  I was glad that I had recently seen Woody Allen’s lovely film, Midnight In Paris.  I had never read anything by Hemingway nor had I looked into the lives of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and the number of other writers introduced in The Paris Wife.  Now I want to!  Isn’t that what a book should do?  Lead you somewhere else!

Regarding McLain’s writing I found the insight directly into Hemingway’s thoughts and experiences brought an additional richness to Hadley’s words and story telling.  At times it was heartbreaking to learn what Ernest was truly about but it created even more depth that was just so great to read.

The Paris Wife is an emotional, romantic, painful and wonderful book.  It made me glad that I didn’t marry a man like Ernest Hemingway!

{Rating 4.5 out of 5}