Book Review: Black Beauty

Black Beauty cover

I hope that everyone is having a good week, regardless of whether you are back to the daily grind or on summer or winter break.

Things have still been going fairly, even if they are not perfect, and I am glad that I can still do what I like.

Recently, a patron on Patreon, who is taking advantage of a tier that lets them make one book request a month, made a request, and, lucky for me, it was available on Project Gutenberg.

Today, I will be reviewing that title, which is called Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

The life of a beast is not any easier than the life of a man, and a colt seems to be enjoying a good life with his mother until he is ready to set about out into the world.

However, after the colt gets purchased and things happen to the mistress of the household, the young colt will begin to see both sides of the spectrum.

I cannot really say that I liked this book too much.

While I have come across many different works of fiction that have feature human protagonists, or even animal protagonists, I have been able to find something that I could enjoy enough to balance things out, even if it did not improve dramatically, and there have been things that I had to rip to shreds, such as the Yu Yu Hakusho movie and Yen Press's release of Judge Volume 6.

Unfortunately, with this title, I can only say that there were one or two things that I really liked, but I am still happy that I do not need skip right into what I hated.

I liked how I could see what Black Beauty's struggles were like and could sympathize with him a bit, though not as much as I could with Kotomi Ichinose, Tomoyo Sakagami, or the Furukawa family from Clannad.

All works of fiction need some of adversity, and readers want to get inside the head of the lead character, so that they can get that feeling, and Anna was able to deliver on this somewhat.

It might not be what I wanted to see, but it was able to do something that many Hollywood studios forget is necessary in a great work fiction, and I feel like giving her a passing grade, though passing grades do not create works good enough to classics.

Hopefully, the writers of today can learn from this and get things delivered better, because Anna Sewell has long since passed away, so people like Weston Kincade, who was able to break the curse of trilogies, even if only temporarily, in his latest book, are the ones that are going to have to pick up the baton and set some new standards, because that is the only way good fiction can come about.

The thing that I liked the most though was how people in this work were not so apathetic, regardless of whether they were religious or not.

As many of you guys know, I have become dissatisfied with the bulk of society and organized religion because many people do not realize that they themselves are apathetic, even though they come across to society at large and their church leaders as selfless.

Some of you guys might be going off in their minds, possibly even the mind of the person who requested that I look at this title, that I am quite apathetic because I do not help those that are in need, instead of helping those that are in need, but, thanks to the many works of fiction that I have read and watched, I cannot do that because it will lead to a much worst state of apathy that exists, regardless of whether one is strongly religious, conservative, or liberal, and is ruining our society just as much as greed, as discussed by Shinichi Akiyama in the 29th chapter of Liar Game, saying:

I got to see many terrible people inside the giant MLM I once worked to destroy. But the worst of them all were the vast numbers of people in it who really believed they were doing good, when they were actually deceiving others. They hadn't the slightest clue what they were doing, simply because they were trying to avoid picturing just how much pain they were inflicting on others by their actions. Not giving it a single thought, a state of complete apathy. The true evil is becoming apathetic about other people.

As I kind of brought up in the opinion post where I originally quoted this passage, the leaders of my church, and likewise the members, just like many of religious sects and other groups, people think that doing particular things, like trying to sale people their faith, do exactly what is being talked about here, because they think it will make people happier, when all they do is not even trying to find out who a person is what they really need help with, thus they end up making the world worse.

In this book, however, people actually seem to pay attention to what is going on and they do not try and push their religious or political beliefs on others, though there is at least one character present in the book that does try to say that happiness and good thing come of being religious, and the whole society seems to be much more caring because of it.

If things were more like this, society would be much better as a whole if things, and people probably would not be using fiction to escape reality as they do, as we would be able to understand each other better.

Unfortunately, I do not see this changing any time soon, unless people started learning the difference between trust, doubt, and apathy and stopped trying to tell people that they were wrong just because they did not believe what others believed, and, in the case of my fellow church members, did not blindly follow church leaders who told them to trust in the lord when they are not really in God's Church or, as Alan Rock Waterman talked about in a post on Pure Mormonism, try to sale the box that contains the pearl, instead of the pearl it contains.

Still, seeing individuals in a work that actually care about one another is pretty nice change from much of what plagues mainstream fiction and society today, and did make the story a bit more enjoyable, and I am willing to Anna another passing grade.

Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else that I particularly liked, at least that did not result from what was already mentioned.

Because there was enough detail to feel some sympathy for the animal protagonist and the people here were not as apathetic as people are today, this book was an okay read.

Although there were a few things that I liked, there are some issues.

And, unfortunately, there are some major problems to be found, aside from the ones to minor to talk about.

First, this story seems to move way too slowly.

Now, some of you guys might be finding this ridiculous because I am currently reading through Spice ' Wolf, which itself has and awfully slow pacing, but just because something is either slow-paced or fast-paced, it does not mean that the work is good.

A Slow pace allows the reader to get to know the characters quite well, and see what their struggles are well enough to sympathize with them, but to really to be able to succeed in delivering a good story, things must still happen over the course of the work.

This book, however, does not really seem to have had anything going on throughout its 49-chapter run.

Heck, the books in the Spice ' Wolf series are comprises of less than ten chapters or so, each of which can rival a short novel in length, at the longest, and something tends to always happen, with the exception of the sixth book, but nothing happens here in 49 chapters other than life in general.

How am I supposed to be able to enough this when things seem slow because nothing happens?

Not only does the fact that practically nothing happen cause things to feel too slow, but the chapters themselves also makes it seem like nothing is going to happen.

Generally, I do not care how long or short a chapter is, and Black Beauty has been known to have relatively short chapters, but these chapters are so short, in both feel and actual writing, that the reader is given absolutely no reason to continue on.

Readers want to be given a reason to continue, whether that be through making character interactions compelling enough to continue reading, or ending on cliffhangers, as is the usual, but the chapters in this book do not seem to deliver any of these.

Really, Anna? You might not be alive today, but the fact that there is this much wrong with the work probably shows why only a few hundred people got this book from Project Gutenberg, other than the fact that the work is not as well-known as the works from Edgar Allan Poe or those featuring Sherlock.

As she was not even able to do this right, I wonder why publishers back in the eighteen hundreds even thought that this was a good work put, other than the fact that it features a horse as a protagonist.

I also hated how I could not really feel too much for Black Beauty, even at his joyous reunion with people he met in the beginning.

While there was not a complete lack of any feeling, as I was able to get some, and it would probably be enough for the animal activists to sympathize with him, I just could not really get immersed with the story itself because there was a bit of a lack of feeling.

If I had to say why, it is once again because practically nothing happened, other than life in general.

Life is tough. Everyone my age and older knows that, but a book where the only struggle is life itself is not that interesting.

One of the best books out there that featured a horse as a protagonist was Michael Morpurgo's War Horse, which also got a movie adapation, because we got to see Joey bond with his owners and all the troubles that he went through, which is normally something that many of never see, and persevered through those times, with some help from humans.

Here, however, Black Beauty does not really seem to bond anyone, whether they be horse or man, even though he says he does and nothing he goes through seems to make me feel happy and sad for what Joey experienced in War Horse.

If I had to say why, it is because much of this bonding that occurs is done in more of a tell than show manner, when the establishment of bonds is something that needs to be shown.

I am supposed to feel happy that Black Beauty somehow reunited with a familiar face, but I cannot do that because the bond does not seem to be as strong as the familial bonds that are seen in works like Clannad and Orange, and I long forgot about all Black Beauty's previous owners by the time the end came around.

Honestly, if there was a much stronger bond established between the Black Beauty and the faces he was reacquainted with, I would have felt as happy for him as I would have liked to be, and things would have been that much more satisfying.

Unfortunately, Anna Sewell never did that, and it really hurts what could have been a great story.

The thing that I hated the most was that the book suggested that as long as one went with the flow that things would work out in the end.

While I do not place a high regard for many of the things that experts in literature say are needed for a truly great work, such as themes and morals, because people will get different messages from a book, just like how people interpret religious texts in various ways to the point where nobody can say what God's word is, I do hate when there is such an in your face message, especially one that nobody should ever think is true.

In real life, we all struggle with things, whether it be against society, against nature, like our ancestors did, or against each other, but the biggest struggle of all is the struggle to find oneself and our place in society. This struggle is what allows us to grow, and even allow the characters in great works of fiction, such as Seishu Handa from Barakamon, to develop and have the reader or viewer like them and associate with them.

However, when people do as they are told by their elders, church leaders, or peers, they do not find themselves and what they want to do, despite the fact that parents want to say the same thing that Akio Furukawa said to his daughter Nagisa in Clannad, which was, “We didn't give up our dreams! We changed our dreams into your dream. That's what parents do. That's what family does.”

As a result of people not actually finding themselves, they become apathetic and unable to see just how fragile what we have is right now, just like how the greed and apathy present in the groups causing people headaches today is ruining things, as well as unhappy with themselves and their life, not to mention we would not have what we do now if all we did was go with the flow.

Yes, horses and other beasts do not get as much freedom of choice as we humans do, as neither Black Beauty nor Joey were able to choose the path that they wanted, but Joey from War Horse at least did things on his own while he persevered, whereas Black Beauty had given up on trying to persevere and started wishing for death.

Seeing as this work was targeted towards children, I sure would not want my descendants to be learning that is okay to go with the flow, even if it does do a good job of showing how hard life can be, and makes it so that I would never read this to them.

We need to be teaching our children things that can help them, even when the technology we have today, like electronic equipment, manual tools, power tools, and vehicles, disappear from this planet, as the stability of our current society will not last, and that is why I am kind of ashamed that I have read this.

Fortunately, nothing else really bothered me, and this book cannot be made to look worse than it already does.

While there were not too many problems with this book, the things that were wrong, like possibly encouraging kids to go with the flow overshadowing the harshness of life, made this book absolutely terrible.

Despite the fact that there were things to like, the negatives present outweighed them enough to make it a waste of time.

I recommend that everyone avoid this like the plague, as there are much better books out there for kids, even some that deliver better messages than what could be found here, but you are free to give it a try for yourself or let your child try it if you so wish.

If you liked the review and would like to see more, please consider supporting me on Patreon or, if you decide to get the book against my recommendation, buy it from Amazon, so that I can continue finding more worthwhile reads for you guys, and doing whatever you do when you find something that impresses you.

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Copyright © 2015 Bryce Campbell. All Rights Reserved.