Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Elizabeth Goudge's The Little White Horse

I first came to "The Little White Horse" through its movie adaptation, The Secret of Moonacre. While the film was charming and boasted some fantastic costume design, overall I found that it lacked significant character and plot development. Interested by the aspects that I did like, I ordered "The Little White Horse" from Barnes and Noble and set out to see if it held qualities that the film lacked. I can happily say that many of the issues I—as well as other viewers—found with the film were non-existent in this charming story. Published in 1946 by author Elizabeth Goudge, this story has been cited as a childhood favorite by authors like J.K.Rowling.
         I will warn would be readers however that the story does progress slowly, unusually so for a book aimed at children and young adults. It isn’t the bad sort of slow, but rather the tedious type of slow. Most of the first two chapters is spent acquainting readers to the Merryweather estate known as Moonacre, as well as all the personalities that live there. Unlike the recent adaptation, the characters are fleshed out rather thoroughly, and readers are made aware of their strengths and faults. While I appreciate this to an extent, it did become a tad tiring. There’s only so much a reader wants to be "told" something about a character. Preferably, we are "shown" the traits of the characters through their actions and words. As this book was written for a younger audience, it is understandable that there would be a great deal more "telling" than "showing". This is not an all-together unusual format for children’s stories, though as an older reader it is easy to find it wearisome. However, despite these minor flaws the story as a whole is very charming. Readers who are fond of "The Secret Garden" might find this book to be particularly interesting, as they share many traits. Both of the heroine—Marry Lennox and Maria Merryweather—are orphans, and both must relocate to live with a relative they have not met. Both find themselves living at a rather large estate, both uncover family secrets, and both befriend a boy who is fond of animals and nature. Mary and Maria also share some personality traits, though Mary is clearly the more immediately disagreeable of the two. While the plots ultimately differ, fans will be able to appreciate the core similarities between the two works. I think that readers who enjoy the Enchanted Forest series by Patricia.C.Wrede will also find "The Little White Horse" right up their ally.
        Overall, I think this is a charming book. I know some people who absolutely adore it, and I have yet to meet anyone who dislikes this book. It is imaginative, interesting, and manages to surpass most of it’s minor faults. If you’re near your local library, pop in and see if they have a copy. This would be a great bed-time story for kids or an assignment for a class, and for us older kids it will be thoroughly entertaining, if not a little slow.

Rating: 3/5