Written by Elizabeth Letts
I had an addition to Marguerite Henry books as a child. Since we’re all friends here I’ll admit that I still occasionally reread them. Marguerite Henry used the simple love a girl has for horses and taught her about life and the world. Her White Stallion of Lipizza is not my favorite of her books, but she painted a picture of the Lipizzaner breed and Vienna that stuck with me from the moment I turned the first page.
Elizabeth Letts is the Marguerite Henry of today, and for grown-ups. Much like Henry, she writes books about horses that are so very much more. I had the book release date marked on my calendar, and it was even more exciting to get it because I was finally travelling to Vienna, and my date with the Lipizzaners, a few months later. I was not disappointed.
As you can imagine, I have learned a lot about the Lipizzaner horse in the thirty years since our first introduction. Letts blew me away with the breadth and depth of information that she collected. Every page contained something I didn’t know, and every word combined to put me right in the very moment she described.
I read pretty fast. I keep a book in the car, one on my nightstand, and typically another floats around somewhere else. Granted, I was interested in this topic and motivated by an upcoming trip, but I read this book in two days. Working eight hours both days.
When I finished, I gave the book to my Mom to read. She was going to Vienna with me, and I thought this book did a good job of explaining the magic of the place, and the magic of the horses. My Mom read the book in under a week. She agreed that it read like a novel. It was tightly constructed, and Letts made everyone on the page come alive. After watching the Lipizzaners perform, my Mom said that the book prepared her well for what she saw, and I think she enjoyed it far more because of that.
Perfect Horse describes the history of this very special breed of horse. It tells the story of their rescue during World War II. But it goes beyond that. This book made me feel the fear and hopelessness of many Viennese during that war. It made me mourn for the world that was and the senselessness of it all. But it also made me feel incredible hope, because, at its core, this is a hopeful story. It is remarkable that the rescue of these animals could mean anything in the light of such tragedy, but, well, Letts says it better than I ever could. Read it and find out for yourself.