by Rosalind Belben
TBR since I saw it reviewed three years ago on A Work in Progress! More recently, when Gavin at Page 247 read and wrote about it, I mentioned I'd been wanting to read it but my library doesn't have any copies. So he very kindly sent me his.
I was so happy to get my hands on this book, and then so frustrated and dismayed when I discovered I didn't like it. The premise really appealed to me. The story is about an woman who travels to Egypt searching for her horse. Thousands of horses were taken from the English countryside for the Army's use in World War I. At the end of the war, the surviving horses meet two fates: those that were too injured or broken-down were destroyed. Many more were sold in Egypt for local use. Very few made it home again. The story of Our Horses in Egypt is told from two points of view; it switches back and forth between the mare Philomena's wartime experiences and the travels of her former owner Griselda, who drags her daughter and Nanny along with her in the search throughout Egypt.
My problem was with the writing style; it's very clipped and sparse, and uses a lot of terminology I'm totally unfamiliar with- especially military terms and words in other languages- half the time I didn't even know what language it was. The setting was also new to me- so the mention of places and events didn't really help me get a grasp on things. The descriptions were just not enough to give me get a sense of place without already having some background knowledge of it. Much of the story is told in dialogue without really describing what people are doing or thinking, which is also hard for me to follow. Events are mentioned in small half-sentences and then it moves on to the next thing. I found it all very hard to take in. I did get a vivid picture of all the horrific things the animals suffered both as warhorses in the heat of battle as as beasts of burden in Egypt's streets. Hunger, thirst, sores, biting insects, wounds, beatings, etc. The military tactics and such were just a blur to me, as the myriad of people mentioned by name and little else, who moved in and out of scenes with little to introduce them. I hardly knew what was going on most of the time, or who I was reading about when it wasn't Griselda or Philomena herself.
I was about ready to toss the book aside at eighty pages but then went back and read all these other reviews, every single one glowing and advising to stick it out despite the odd writing style, so I did. I made myself finish. I wanted to get the sense of greatness from this book. But it just didn't work out for me. And I feel very sorry for that, I did want to love it so. Please take a look at some of the other reviews linked to in this post and below. I feel like I cannot really give this book justice, and there's a lot of you out there who might appreciate what I failed to!
Rating: 2/5 ........ 304 pages
more opinions at:
Evening all afternoon
what we have here is a failure to communicate