Entertainment & Arts

War Horse film boosts book sales

Image caption War Horse is the story of a farm horse, Joey, who gets separated from his owner and ends up in the trenches of World War I

Sales of Michael Morpurgo's novel War Horse have seen a dramatic rise since the release of Steven Spielberg's Oscar-nominated film version of the story.

It has sold more copies in the UK in a fortnight, than it did worldwide in the 25 years after it was first published.

The book, first published in 1982, has been the number one best-selling book in the UK for two consecutive weeks.

A stage version of the show opened in 2007.

War Horse is the story of a farm horse, Joey, who gets separated from his owner and ends up in the trenches of World War I.

Publisher Egmont Press said the chart-topping book had sold more than 30,000 copies in the UK each week over the past fortnight.

By comparison, the book sold 50,000 copies worldwide between 1982 and 2007 - an average of 2,000 per year.

"We've loved Michael's book for 30 years and always believed that it was a classic that should be kept in print," said Cally Poplak, managing director of Egmont Press.

"It's wonderful to see this incredible story in the hands of so many readers, film fans and theatregoers. A great story has universal appeal and War Horse is receiving the success it always deserved."

While it is not unusual for novels to receive a boost when they are adapted for the big screen, Morpurgo's book has achieved the unusual feat of taking some 30 years to reach the top of the book charts.

Other novels, adapted for film, that received a chart boost in 2011 include David Nicholls' One Day, Kathryn Stockett's The Help, John le Carre's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir Eat, Pray, Love.


Morpurgo, author of over 100 books for children, told the BBC in an interview in 2010 that his book had done nothing spectacular for years.

"It nearly won a prize but failed," he said. "It was translated into three or four languages. It was published in America and didn't succeed.

"It stayed in print - just about - for about 25 years. It simply was not a book that anyone really knew about or cared about."

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Media captionMichael Morpurgo on the importance of War Horse's background

All that changed when it came to the attention of the National Theatre, which was on the look-out for an animal-centric drama.

The show, which uses puppet horses, became a West End hit. By the end of 2012 there will be productions in London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne.

Egmont sold 950,000 copies of War Horse worldwide between the opening of the play in 2007 and November 2011, just before Spielberg's film premiered.

The epic movie is adapted from both Morpurgo's book and the stage version, with Four Weddings scribe Richard Curtis among the credited writers.

However, the film has divided critics. Some were moved by the emotional storyline, while others called it mawkish and unconvincing.

This week War Horse was nominated for six Oscars, including best picture.

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