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Michael Morpurgo: War Child to War Horse [Hardcover]

Maggie Fergusson , Michael Morpurgo
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Jun 2012

The life of Michael Morpurgo, as a biography, and autobiographical stories.

Michael Morpurgo is a national treasure. With books such as ‘Private Peaceful’, ‘Kensuke’s Kingdom’ and ‘The Wreck of the Zanzibar’ he has enchanted a whole generation of children, weaving stories for them in a way that is neither contrived nor condescending. His is a rare gift.

In 2007, Michael’s novel ‘War Horse’ was adapted for the stage by the National Theatre. Five years on, it continues to play to packed audiences of all ages and has been turned into a blockbuster film by Steven Spielberg, propelling Morpurgo to household-name status.

Michael’s own story is as strange and surprising as any he has written, and is shot through with the same thread of sadness found in almost all his work. How did this supremely unbookish boy who dreamed of becoming an army officer become a bestselling author and Children’s Laureate instead? What personal price has he paid for success? And why, amidst his triumphs, is he now haunted by regret?

In a unique collaboration, Maggie Fergusson explores Michael Morpurgo’s life through seven biographical chapters, to which he responds with seven stories. The portrait that emerges is one of light and shade: the light very bright, the shade complex and often painful.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 307 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; 1st edition (7 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007387261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007387267
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 15 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 170,733 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Maggie Fergusson is Secretary of the Royal Society of Literature and Literary Editor of Intelligent Life. Her first book, George Mackay Brown: The Life, won the Saltire First Book Prize, the Marsh Biography Award, the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Award and the Scottish Arts Council Biography Award.

Product Description


‘ … what [Maggie Fergusson] has done is to present, with tact and insight, a man who is clearly complex, ferociously energetic, idealistic, not always easy to get on with but – at least in the words of his friend Philip Pullman – ‘a truly good man’ … Fergusson has done her subject proud, skilfully evoking both the high and low points of a busy and productive life … This combination is an original idea, and the stories nicely complement the unfolding life. But in the last resort the most compelling story is just that – as told by a masterly biographer’ Penelope Lively, Spectator

‘Maggie Fergusson explores the ‘six selfs’ of the author …Morpurgo has written seven stories reflecting on these roles and they are a joy to read’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Despite her cosy relationship with her subject she offers him no comfortable ride … Morpurgo has worked hard for his success. This compassionate and appreciative biography of a good man is nothing less that his due.’ Nicholas Tucker, Independent

‘Mrs Fergusson’s instinctive empathy with her subject has been abetted by his co-operation and that of his close family and friends … The result is fascinating – and salutary for our more emollient age … Exploring and explaining, balanced and impeccably researched, this is biography at its best. It shows us how, If Mr Morpurgo’s wells are deep and often run dark, their water runs clear and pure’ Country Life

‘Maggie Fergusson describes all this with great verve, which, counter-pointed by Morpurgo’s semi-fictional reactions, gives the biography a powerful sense of unpredictability and excitement’ Piers Plowright, Camden New Journal

About the Author

Maggie Fergusson is Secretary of the Royal Society of Literature and Literary Editor of Intelligent Life. Her first book, George Mackay Brown: The Life, won the Saltire First Book Prize, the Marsh Biography Award, the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Award and the Scottish Arts Council Biography Award.

Michael Morpurgo OBE is one of Britain’s best-loved writers for children. He was written over 100 books and won many prizes, including the Blue Peter Book Award and the Whitbread Award. His bestselling novels include Kensuke’s Kingdom, Shadow, Private Peaceful, An Elephant in the Garden and Born to Run. He was made Children’s Laureate from 2003 to 2005, a role which took him all over the country to inspire children with the joy of reading stories.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marvellously written biography 11 Oct 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a marvellously written biography. Fergusson uses her delicate scalpel to give a strong sense of the driven personality of the highly energetic story-teller. He appears to have been much influenced by his early family life, notably by his mother, who left his father for a more glamorous man.

Morpurgo had to struggle to pursue his passions, before the high-selling successes which culminated with War Horse. Fergusson writes interestingly about Morpurgo as a charismatic teacher in his earlier years and about the ground-breaking charity to help disadvantaged children which he and his wife founded and ran with great success and an astonishing single-mindedness. His apparently difficult relations with his own children are touched upon but not over-exposed. It is a triumph that she has produced such a very human portrait.

Alternate chapters contain a number of short stories by Morpurgo, written for this book as part of the collaborative arrangement between biographer and biographee. In my view, they are less sure, except the first one, which is a very effective and poignant ghost story set in bombed-out London, involving the narrator's uncle.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stunning biography 1 Nov 2012
By margo b
This is one of the best biographies I have ever read. It is honest and does not try to gloss over or hide anything. Every thing about it is tackled head on. I got this out of the library this morning and have just finished it, Fascinating, compulsive reading. I look forward to more from this author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Biography 20 Jan 2013
This book is a superb collaboration between biographer and the subject or biographee. Since the amazing success of War Horse on stage and screen and after about thirty years on paper, Morpugo has become an extremely well-known name when even a decade ago his name was not well-known in school libraries. However, holding the post of Children's Laureate and the success of War Horse which naturally led to admirers of this work searching Morpurgo's back-catalogue and looking out for new additions to his ever-increasing bibliography and as in 2008 alone eight new books appeared, he is certainly extremely active.
The biography may be unique in that Maggie Ferguson relates Morpurgo's life through seven chapters and he has responded with seven stories. These stories are worth the price of the book alone and although the writing is at times sparse the words flow off the page like a Devon river in full flood and refresh the reader with their meaning and message.
Morpurgo has never suffered financially and was Captain of King's School, Canterbury, married Clare, the daughter of Sir Allen Lane, the founder of Penguin Books and the book mentions his 'silver spoon'. In addition, fortune has favoured him in often meeting people such as Ted Hughes at the right time and he has formed firm friendships with some significant and successful people which have helped when he and Clare founded Farms for City Children.
Although the biography is detailed and gives many personal anecdotes and insights the charity that Morpurgo co-founded probably requires more information about its foundation, more logistics about how hands-on the biographee actually was, its wonderful success for urban youngsters and about the eventual hand-over as the Morpurgos relinquished control.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interestingly constructed book. 8 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Biography sections followed by a fictional responses from the Author. Very thought provoking. Describing Michael as a children's writer is robbing some adult readers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars War child to war horse 6 Jan 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love all of monoliths book's.this one is a revelation.
Fantastic writer and so gripping that I will have to read this book again. I would recommend this book to everyone as it is a classic.lindasmouton@Gmail.com
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