Thursday, August 18, 2016

Review - The Little White Horse

Original Title: The Little White Horse.
Series: -
Author: Elizabeth Goudge
Published: March 2nd 2005 (originally published in 1946)
Publisher: Salamandra (the Spanish, Hardcover edition) 

This is one of those books I read because I saw the movie first, The Secret of Moonacre, which I loved a lot more. And when I learned it is a favorite of my hero J. K. Rowling? So much better! But the truth is that, after a thousand difficulties, and the countless bookstores I went to find it, reading it was... disappointing. There was a moment in which I found myself reading and saying "Really? This is what I made such a fuss for?".

I'm not one of speaking ill of a book; it has to be very bad -or terrible- for me to give it one or two stars, or review it unfavorably, but the truth is that I didn't like it as much as I was expecting. There was a time in which I started wondering "when will the story begin?"

There's not a real conflict, and everything is so absolutely beautiful and perfect, that it is cloying. I never understood which was the evil the men in the Forest caused -besides being the atheists, and hence, the villains-, and the truth is that, thanks to the movie, I thought the pearls would have a more active role (that they were, at least, magical). Besides, I didn't think Maria's role in the whole situation was worthy of calling her a "Moon Princess", because that title didn't give her any special ability, or anything of the sort, in addition to being a "moon Merrywheater", because she was born at night.

I don't deny that there are nice moments, and that the descriptions of the places, like Maria's bedroom in Moonacre, are beautiful. But they are too extensive. Too many pages with descriptions, at the expense of what could have been a good story.

I've read enough books in my life as to know that not everything is so black-and-white as it is depicted here. The good guys are too good, and the bad guys are... well, bad, but I never understood which one was the real evil. Plus, at times I thought this book was cruel to women, like when the parson tells Maria that excessive curiosity in women is dangerous. It was like to yell at him, "What? Only men can be interested in things?". Perhaps it was a way of thinking during the era in which the book is set, but it clearly bothered me. How is Maria supposed to be a heroine in those terms? A hero is such because he decides that rules -mostly the stiffling ones, like here- no longer apply to him/her if they won't help to reach his/her goal. At least for me, if the hero estrictly follows the accepted rules, then that's not being a hero, but an obsequious idiot. 

In general, I recommend to watch the movie before reading the book; but The Secret of Moonacre is one of those movies in which, I think, if they are going to alter the original story that much, it is easier to change the names, and done! A new story to tell. I passed the pages eager to get to the moment in which Maria jumped from the cliff to the sea, and the white horses brought her back, but that never happened. Huge disappointment.

But every cloud has a silver lining, and it had one thing that fairly deserves to be mentioned. The moment in which the white horses appeared. I think it was the only one in the whole book in which I could truly feel inside the story. With this:

"...And it was not only that the darkness was yielding, for the silence was broken too. Far off, faint and mysterious, they could hear the sound of the sea."

The idea of hearing the ocean, even when it was far away and it shouldn't be heard, was lovely. The first touch of real magic I was expecting from page one. And then...

"To the east, where was the sunrise and the sea, light was stealing into the woods, like a milkwhite mist, and as the light grew so did the sound of the sea grow too. And then it seemed as though the light was taking form. It was still light, but within the light there were shapes moving that were made of yet brighter light; and the shapes were those of hundreds of galloping white horses with flowing manes and poised curved necks like the necks of the chessmen in the parlor, and bodies whose speed was the speed of light and whose substance seemed no more solid than that of the rainbow."

That was the most magical moment in the whole book, and I loved it. But it didn't make up for the fact that I passed the pages bored, and I never stopped waiting for the true conflict to begin.

Lots of people adore this book, because they probably read it as kids, and I understand it perfectly. But, sadly, it is not for me. Personally, I prefer happy endings after an uphill fight to conquer it, to deserve it, and not as it happens here, where everyone gets married and is happy (including Maria, and at 14! - seriously?).

So, in short, this isn't such a bad book, but it is definitely not for me.


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