In the Bookcase


Book Review: National Velvet

National Velvet by Enid Bagnold (2 star review)

National Velvet

written by Enid Bagnold

320 pages // published in 1935 // children's literary fiction


The timeless story of spirited Velvet Brown and her beloved horse has thrilled generations of readers. And now the republication of this classic story in a fresh, up-to-date package will charm confirmed fans while captivating new ones. Fourteen-year-old Velvet is determined to turn her untamed horse into a champion and personally ride him to victory in the world's greatest steeplechase, the Grand National.

My Review...

2 Star Rating

'National Velvet' is not what I thought it would be. In fact, it was one of the more disheartening books I've read in a while. My issue is with the style and content of the story -- because the overall plot is just dandy! (i.e., girl trains horse to become a race champion? Awesome.)

Let's start at the beginning, shall we? My problems with it started on page 1. And yet, I thought that it must get better. It's a children's classic, right? So it has to be good. Or not, depending on who you are.

So, page 1. My first hurdle to get over was the writing style. It's different than almost any other book I've read, thus, it was hard to just "fall into" the story seamlessly. Believe me, I've read a LOT of books, and classic literature is a personal forté of mine. I'll all for the vintage and antique hardbound gems. But this one threw me for a loop. Perhaps it's the dryness of the words. There's no wit, no humor, or no glory in it. (Except for the last page or two at the end -- which really was fantastic and was the best text found in the whole volume! In my humble opinion, of course.)

Another big issue I have with the book is that there was quite a sprinkling of foul language in it. Perhaps the author didn't quite mean it that way, and of course, the book was written when times were a little different. But I was still surprised. In fact, I had both an abridged version and unabridged version of the book. I scoured page after page to pinpoint exactly what they had changed in the abridged version, and come to find out, it looks like the only text that had to be changed was the foul language I kept finding in the original unabridged copy. But even in the one abridged for children, not all incidents were trimmed out. For what the publisher tried to do though, I was grateful!

Now, I've got to admit something that is extremely rare and, even in this case, a bit hard for me to digest. I have found a situation where the movie is astoundingly better than the book. Who knew?! It's an unwritten rule among us bookworms that the book is always better. But, I finally found the loophole to that saying, and 'National Velvet' is the one. In fact, I would go so far to say that the movie (you know, the one with young Elizabeth Taylor starring alongside Mickey Rooney) is in fact beautiful and enchanting. It has characters that come alive, and a plot that inspires you. THAT is the story I wanted to read!

At what age should children read it? Well, I wouldn't personally recommend it for young readers. Of course, it certainly fluctuates with each individual child, but I best recommend it for ages 14 and up. Even then, if the kid can't connect with the writing style or story, well... it's not the most engrossing book.

So, I've made my case. Truly, I wanted to enjoy this book, but I guess it's just not the one for me. Maybe the next reader will have better luck with it.

National Velvet is available on Amazon in paperback, and audiobook format.

This is book #1 for me in the Back to the Classics 2017 challenge.
[CATEGORY: Classic About an Animal]

P.S. Like and vote for this review on Goodreads and Amazon.


  1. I was never into horses but most of my friends were and books like this were so popular when I was a kid. It doesn't sound like I missed anything by skipping it.

  2. I don't recall reading this one when I was younger. From your description of it, it doesn't sound like one I'll be recommending to my daughter (when she's older).

  3. Movie better than the book...Indeed. I agree with your excellent review. My choice for a classic about an animal, actually used the option of classic with the name of an animal, The Wings of the Dove:

    By the way, a couple others where the movie is considered better: Jaws and The Godfather.