Michael Morpurgo was the first author that I truly fell in love with. His books caught my imagination when I was ten, with Kensuke’s Kingdom. A story about how a young boy and his dog become stranded on a tropical island.
This post isn’t about Kensuke, but War Horse. Undoubtedly you’ll have heard of it. Award winning book with a theatre and film adaption, if you haven’t you’ve been living under a seriously big rock.
War Horse was my first glimpse into the early nineteen hundreds which has become one of my favourite periods in history, eventually leading to my love for Downton Abbey… Ignoring that last bit. I don’t want to talk about the story but it’s effects on me, I don’t want to ruin anything of the story. It’s that great!
I’ve read it nine times, most I’ve ever re-read a book. The second being another Morpurgo book, Private Peaceful. His writing is undoubtedly what started my obsession with literature, myth and history. It took me till the age of ten to read a book all the way through, somehow my teachers never realised I’m dyslexic. What Morpurgo did for me was allow me to realise that although I couldn’t read quickly or correctly all the time I was able to do much as my friends could do. My twin sister was already reading Deathly Hallows at the time, I’m sure anyone with siblings can understand the rivalry from such trivial matters.
Then it goes downhill slightly. December last year my mum bought me an early Christmas present to go and see a Morpurgo reading in the famous Southwell Minster. My dad and I went and unfortunately arrived late. Then a small miracle happens. A friend of my dad who works in stage production sees him and brings us to the staff section, to the left of the stage with a perfect view from the side. Morpurgo came on stage several times to read extracts from his book Private Peaceful, with singers coming on stage to sing historically accurate songs.
In the break my dad and I stood around waiting, a minute before the show is due to begin again I slip off to the call of nature in a separate building outside the Minster. When I was on my way back I, literally, walked into Morpurgo. I’m six foot one, he’s about five foot five. Without thinking I said “Holy shit, I’ve wanted to meet you for years.” I then extricated my battered copy of War horse from my coat and, “would you sign this?” He scowled at me and told me to “fuck off.” Childhood dream ruined. I haven’t read War Horse since. You should never meet your heroes.
Excluding this small soul destroying episode War Horse is truly the book I owe my whole life to. I’m sure that if I hadn’t read it there would’ve been another novel. I’m glad it was this one though.