Recommended age: 9+

The Winter Horses

by Philip Kerr

The story is set in Ukraine during World War Two.

Kalinka’s family were Jewish and killed by the Nazis. But Kalinka managed to escape and, displaying a tremendous survival instinct, she endures terrible hardship as she goes on the run in a very harsh landscape.

As we meet her, she has come across a herd of horses which are also being pursued by the soldiers. They are a rare breed and the Nazis want them destroyed.

Kalinka, with the help of an elderly man called Max, manages to save two horses, a breeding pair, but the Nazis are soon in pursuit again so Max stays behind, hoping to halt the soldiers, while Kalinka flees with the horses and Max’s dog.

We then follow Kalinka’s relationship with these horses and the long journey they take together in the hope of finding safety.

It's a challenging book bringing to the fore the horrors of war but it is simply and beautifully written. You almost shiver from the cold in the barren, icy landscape of the author’s descriptions, but you also feel the warmth and tenderness of the relationships of Kalinka and Max, and with the animals.

Review date: February 2015
The Winter Horses by Philip Kerr