Ten years and two novels (The Girl in a Swing, Maia) later, British author Adams returns to the animal kingdom that made him...



Ten years and two novels (The Girl in a Swing, Maia) later, British author Adams returns to the animal kingdom that made him famous (Watership Down, Shardik, The Plague Dogs) with these extraordinary Civil War memoirs of--move over, Mr. Ed--Robert E. Lee's horse. It's to a tomcat hanging around his stable that old steed Traveller tells his tale of life with ""Marse Robert."" Reminiscing in a voice (""Course, it warn't long 'fore I had to lam some manners. . ."") that grounds his story in authentic Southern rhythms, he opens with memories of a happy, coltish life that is transformed on the day, early in the war, that he's first ridden by Lee: ""l hadn't knowed there could be a horseman like that--a horseman who knowed what you was feeling nigh on 'fore you felt it yourself. . ."" Traveller remains at the general's side for the war's duration, witness to all the horror: "". . .all around us confusion such as you never seed, Tom, and can't imagine. I could see whole lines of our gray soldiers going forward. . .Every second or so there'd be a great bang--smoke and flame--and some of 'em would fall down, screaming and cussing. . ."" Meeting famed Confederates (""Cap-in-His-Eyes,"" a.k.a. Stonewall Jackson; ""Jine-the-Calvary,"" a.k.a. Jeb Stuart) and their horses, enduring battle after bloody battle (to keep his readers oriented, Adams intersperses the memoir with briefs on Lee's campaigns), Traveller spins the sights, sounds, smells of war into vivid life even as he gauges his adventures by how they warp or tighten the bond between himself and Lee (a knotty bond at times, as when Traveller's bolt causes Lee to fall and damage his hands). War finally over--Traveller thinks the South has won--horse and general retire to a quiet life that closes with Traveller, wondering where his master is, being led into a solemn procession with ""this black stuff hung all over my saddle and bridle."" Adams' shortest novel and, despite its high sentimentality, one of his most potent, likely to draw a large readership: a marvelously inventive and affecting blend of historical chronicle and animal fable that gallops right into the heart of beast, man, and war.

Pub Date: June 6, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1988