War Horse - Audio CD

War Horse  - Michael Morpurgo, John Keating It's amazing how a change of perspective can remind us of events in a way that makes them both familiar and completely new.  We know so much about the First World War, but to see it from the perspective of the horses used in battle and as support to the troops, it becomes something richer and more tragic than when we only through the eyes of our fellow human beings.The trick of using a non-human narrator is finding a balance between creating an approachable voice and falling into an over-anthropomorphizing the character.  Horses do not think or behave like humans, and a novel that is truly written from a horse's point of view would be difficult for readers to understand.Morpurgo makes deliberate choices regarding how Joey narrates that lead directly to the success of the book.  For instance, Joey understands human speech in all languages.  The idea of a horse understanding English is a bit of a stretch, but when he also understands French and German, the idea of a horse understanding our words actually becomes more believable, not less.This lack of differentiation in human languages allows Morpurgo to seamlessly move Joey through different parts of the landscape of the First World War as he becomes the property of various factions within the conflict.  By seeing Germans through his eyes and ears, we are able to empathize with them just as much as we are with the British.Joey also does not think of human groups as good or evil.  He does make judgements on certain humans, but even then, he judges aspects of their behaviour (for instance, his discomfort in the way a certain rider uses the bit) rather than casting them as good or bad people.A part of me wishes that more had been made of Joey's relationships with the other horses he meets, especially Zoe and Topthorn.  While we are privy to his feelings toward each of them, it's the humans who are allow much more characterization and dominate Joey's thoughts.  Then again, my needing a reason for Joey's instinctual love of the other horses might be my own attempt to give him human qualities rather than equine ones.War Horse has been adapted into a multi award winning play which, through the use of technically marvellous, human-powered puppets, keeps as an undertone the anthropomorphizing that allows us to empathize with Joey, while still seeing the war through eyes so very different from our own.CateWatch the TEDTalk by the Handspring Puppet Company, who created "Joey" for the stage.  I'd recommend the whole talk, but if you'd just like to see "Joey" they bring him out at the 9:00 mark.This review also appears at Boxes of Paper.