Given that I’ve seen the runaway smash stage adaptation (incredible) and the Spielberg film (less so), I really thought it was time to go for the trifecta and read the original novel. Originally published back in 1982, I was unaware of it even existing until the National Theatre put it on stage. And even with that, I didn’t know until I read the preface of the book that Joey actually existed.
Joey is the titular horse and narrates the novel, which means of course that it is a VERY different experience than either of its adaptations. But it is still a powerful tale and no less so for the simplicity of its telling. Joey forms a bond with his master, young Albert Narracott. Albert’s father sells Joey to the army as he is in desperate need of the cash to keep the farm afloat. Throughout the horrors of the war, Joey never stops yearning for Albert. And as we all know, Albert swore to find Joey again, and joins the war effort to do so.
Albert’s journey to find Joey is something that has been added to the stage and screen versions, of course. Here, we only ever see events through Joey’s eyes, the story never leaves him. It’s no spoiler to reveal that man and horse are reunited. It’s equally not a spoiler to say that the way it happens here is so beautifully understated that it packs more of a punch than the film version.
Written for children, this is a quick and simple read, but it’s packed with complicated situations and emotions. And while you may read it all in one sitting, it will stay with you for a long time after. It’s gorgeous and it’s really not difficult to see why it’s still a firm favourite over thirty years later. It’s an enduring classic that will still be read and adored in another thirty years.