“I absolutely adored The Little White Horse.”
J. K. Rowling
That sentence alone persuaded me to purchase The Little White Horse, a book I knew nothing else about by an author I’d never heard of. If this story fed the imagination of young J.K. Rowling, I wanted to save our family a seat at the feast.
The Little White Horse starts the way so many classics do: Maria Merryweather, newly orphaned, is delivered by carriage to Moonacre Manor. She will live there with her cousin Sir Benjamin, and that prospect sounds, to her, simply awful. But when she arrives, she finds Moonacre Manor and the valley around it infused with the unexpected, for the country life Maria dreaded is not dull at all but rich in mystery and delight.
She finds clothes laid out in her room each morning, embroidered with someone else’s name. She discovers a room in the manor where every object has some secret shut up in it. And she roves the countryside with a freedom she never had in London, exploring and building unlikely friendships. Yet there is one blot upon this otherwise unmarred place—the wicked men of the pine wood. In her determination to learn who the men are and how they came to the valley, Maria learns something unexpected—and thoroughly unpleasant—about her own ancestors.
Like an old fairy tale, The Little White Horse assures us from the start that all shall be well and, by the book’s end, all is well—all bows are tied up neatly, all difficulties resolved. But Elizabeth Goudge keeps the route from beginning to end unpredictable: we never know what is coming around the next bend, only that it will be wonderful. And it is wonderful. This book I bought on a whim has become one of the most beloved books in our family library.