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Our Horses in Egypt Hardcover – International Edition, February 27, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; (2nd printing) edition (February 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 070117594X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701175948
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,251,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A most unusual, fascinating novel…gripping transcontinental adventure."

"A remarkable work of literature: an intensely noticing novel, told in a style of dashing idiosyncrasy that adapts equally well to comic verve and unbearable sadness. If literary prizes were awarded (as they still, occasionally, are), on pure excellence of writing, Our Horses in Egypt would be sure to make Rosalind Belben a late-blooming household name."
—Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph

"Belben does not shy away from difficult themes…In this powerful novel, Belben celebrates the gift of not forgetting with the confidence and style of a writer who deserves to be a great deal better known."
—Melissa Katsoulis, Tablet

"Brilliantly brutal passages by Belben."
—Ed Vanstone, Big Issue Cymru

"Here is a First World War story and a love story with a difference... Rosalind Belben is as unsentimental as she is skilful. Griselda's quest is perfectly paced, and the author's default tone is restraint mixed with irony. As a result she has conjured up a novel of unexpected potency."
—Edwin Reardon, The First Post

"Magnificent… funny and sad, by turns elegant and terse, romantic and brisk – evocative and entirely beguiling, a wonderful novel."
—Matthew Dennison, Daily Telegraph

Splicing tales of Griselda's mission with Philomena's wartime trials, Belben's narrative ambles along at a pace suited to the war-battered world in which it unfolds. From this sentimental premise, she carves an epic tale devoid of syrup that cuts to the heart of our relationship with other cultures and other creatures."
—Hepzibah Anderson,

"The novel offers a heart-rending account of the horses’ experience in the Great War… Our Horses in Egypt, a radical experiment in narrative, has a sympathetic splendour, leading the blinkered humanist imagination into the realm of creaturely experience."
—Stevie Davies, Independent

About the Author

Rosalind Belben lives in Dorset and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Among her admired novels are Hound Music, Choosing Spectacles, Is Beauty Good and Dreaming of Dead People.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Walker Pond on September 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this book from one of Amazon's lists....My Favorite Books or something like that...and I love horses, find Egypt fascinating and loved the photo on the cover. It is a remarkable work of literature. The story of the humans and the horses is told from a curiously detached point of view that serves to inexplicably create a deeper focus by the reader and thus render the story more real. The style of the writing is unusual in that you rarely are told what anyone see what the characters do and hear what they say. I believe it takes an unusual and gifted mind to write in this way. There are no facile tricks used to suck us in; no sentimentality. When you finish the book, you feel that you have been there and its painful. I absolutely loved this book. The research that must have been needed to flesh out this novel deserves a PHD! This is one amazing author! If you know anything about The Brooke you will be enthralled.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Timothy J. Bazzett on November 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If I were better informed about the war fronts of North Africa and the Near East of the First World War, I probably would have had an easier time reading this novel of those campaigns waged by British cavalry units against the Germans and Turks. I found myself equally ignorant of the naval battles like "the Mole at Zeebrugge," which kept coming up, since that was where the book's heroine (or perhaps 'anti-heroine') Griselda Romney, lost her naval officer husband. Alas, I found myself to be greviously lacking in knowledge about such things. There was also much British (and military) slang of the period which often left me scratching my head.

In spite of these, my own shortcomings, however, Our Horses in Egypt kept me turning the pages, mostly to find out what became of the real heroine here, an English hunter mare named Philomena. Because the war widow, Griselda Romney, was portrayed in such a way that made her a less sympathetic character than the horse. Not that Griz didn't have her endearing traits, not the least of which was her love of horses and compassion for poor, dumb, suffering animals that sent her on this fantastically impossible post-war trek to Egypt to look for her hunter and bring her home again. She took along her six year-old daughter Amabel and her steadfast and long-suffering Nanny (who was perhaps the most likeable of the human characters here). There is also a varied cast of other colorful human characters here, including a few of Griselda's hopeful suitors along the way and also the various cavalry troopers who rode and cared for Philomena during the war years.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Diana C. Cook on March 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a historical novel about the British cavalry campaigns in northern Africa during World War 1. Horses were requisitioned from landowners, and these horses underwent considerable privation, distress, and suffering. So did the soldiers who rode and cared for them. The novel alternates viewpoints with some chapters describing Philomena's experiences. (Philomena is a filly). Other chapters describe the privations of Griselda Romney who travels to Egypt with her young daughter and her Nanny in order to rescue Philomena and return her to Britain after the War is over. Griselda's suffering is not so much physical, but emotional since her idealism is incomprehensible to her family and to the Egyptian horse owners who can't understand her motivations. British and Muslim prejudices are described in the same sparse unemotional prose.
The style of the writing is quite unusual. Sentences are spare and seemingly simple, yet often hard to understand. Here is an example describing Philomena's treatment after a camel bite: "Farrier-Sargeant "Burtie" Burt was cursory: he had exceeding worse to attend, and a mash in the flesh of his own sword arm." What's a "mash"? Who is Burtie? I found it hard to keep track of all the different riders assigned to the horse. The simplicity of the prose belies the rapid changes of viewpoint. I usually read late at night, and found myself rushing ahead only to realize that the short sentences are more like poetry than like declarative sentences.
This is an unusual book which some people are going to love and appreciate. Others may find it tough going but worth it. I'm glad I read it, but it required quite an effort from me. Not as great an effort as the novel's characters put forth, though.
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By Guy R. Hearn on February 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A lot going on here, and it takes a while to get in to. There are two stands of narrative; the experiences of the English horse Philomena plucked from the gentle English countryside and thrown into the full horror of the North African campaign and her former owner Griselda Romney, Egypt bound to try to rescue her from a life of post war servitude. Overall, Philomena's narrative is more engaging, although for a non horse person like myself the language and rituals of horse maintenance took some deciphering (what on earth is tibbin?). Its worth it though; we are used to reading about the privations of soldiers during the First World War, even if the North African front has not been covered in anywhere near as much detail as the Western Front. We are used to reading of the incompetence and callousness of officers to their men. The sufferings of the animals are less well known, and the war from Philomena's POV is revelatory and heart breaking as are her sufferings post war
Griselda's narrative is less successful. The narrative voice is clipped and sparse, and it requires some effort from the reader to get into the rhythm of the language. No problem with that, but I was constantly left with the impression that there where things going on "off stage" which the reserved (and no doubt authentic) linguistic style was hiding from me. What is it she'd done in the past that made Maltese society so ill disposed to receiving her? What exactly is she is supposed to have done on board ship the crew that get her removed from the ship to Egypt. Simple conversation? In which case why are her legs described as being "in the air". What exactly is going on in Cairo with Imran? Can she really be as silly and self absorbed as she seems? And why on earth does the faithful Nanny encourage her in her foolishness?
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