From the number-one New York Times best-selling author of The Eighty-Dollar Champion, the remarkable story of the heroic rescue of priceless horses in the closing days of World War II.
In the chaotic last days of the war, a small troop of battle-weary American soldiers captures a German spy and makes an astonishing find - his briefcase is empty but for photos of beautiful white horses that have been stolen and kept on a secret farm behind enemy lines. Hitler has stockpiled the world's finest purebreds in order to breed the perfect military machine - an equine master race. But with the starving Russian army closing in, the animals are in imminent danger of being slaughtered for food.
With only hours to spare, one of the army's last great cavalrymen, American colonel Hank Reed, makes a bold decision - with General George Patton's blessing - to mount a covert rescue operation. Racing against time, Reed's small but determined force of soldiers, aided by several turncoat Germans, steals across enemy lines in a last-ditch effort to save the horses.
Pulling together this multistranded story, Elizabeth Letts introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters: Alois Podhajsky, director of the famed Spanish Riding School of Vienna, a former Olympic medalist who is forced to flee the bomb-ravaged Austrian capital with his entire stable in tow; Gustav Rau, Hitler's imperious chief of horse breeding, a proponent of eugenics who dreams of genetically engineering the perfect warhorse for Germany; and Tom Stewart, a senator's son who makes a daring moonlight ride on a white stallion to secure the farm's surrender.
A compelling account for animal lovers and World War II buffs alike, The Perfect Horse tells for the first time the full story of these events. Elizabeth Letts' exhilarating tale of behind-enemy-lines adventure, courage, and sacrifice brings to life one of the most inspiring chapters in the annals of human valor.
©2016 Elizabeth Letts (P)2016 Random House Audio
"[Elizabeth] Letts, a lifelong equestrienne, eloquently brings together the many facets of this unlikely, poignant story underscoring the love and respect of man for horses.... The author's elegant narrative conveys how the love for these amazing creatures transcends national animosities." (Kirkus Reviews)
"Straight out of the cauldron of Nazi brutality and war, Elizabeth Letts weaves not just a page-turner but an achingly glorious story of grace and redemption. She embeds us with an international ensemble cast of battle-toughened soldiers. It is through their eyes, and through Letts's nearly supernatural horse sense, that we fall in love with sensitive Lipizzaner and fine-boned Arabians - the rescued animals who inspired men to reclaim their humanity." ( Vicki Constantine Croke, author of Elephant Company)
"In the early years of World War II, the finest purebred horses in Nazi-occupied Europe were stolen by the Germans for experiments to develop the perfect horse. In this spellbinding, heart-stopping book, Elizabeth Letts does full justice to the extraordinary drama of the horses' rescue in the war's chaotic final days." (Lynne Olson, author of Citizens of London)
I put off listening to The Perfect Horse for a few months as I wasn't sure I could cope with it. (Other horse owners will understand!) This is one of the most engaging books I've ever read/listened to and I've seldom come across such a powerful narrative of the extreme feats of endurance demanded of the Arab breeding stock.
This was emotionally heavy going but well balanced between the horrors of war and the beauty of human compassion towards the horses. Thoroughly well researched, it is an eye opening perspective of life and politics during and after the war from both sides.
"An article stretched into a book"
Oh wow ! Such filler. So boring. Not well written . Tangents that veer off topic for chapters at a time. Ugh ...I have four hours left to go, I can't do it. (Won't know how this story ends and don't care anymore) Definitely won't be reading any other works by this author. Life is too short!
Can't say I'm a fan of the narrator in this particular book either. His pronunciation and cadence are odd to my west coast ears.
Not a total bust though, the production quality is great.
"Why did I buy this book"
This book progresses too slow and the reader's monotone voice is not helping. Not finished and not sure will continue either
"Too Long, too stilted a Read"
That just a magnificent subject was treated this way. We have been to Vienna and made it a point to visit the Spanish riding school, and have long adored these great, beautiful animals and their performances. This book almost put my wife and I to sleep.
Most of US Cavalry back-story.
A much less formal, stilted reading style would have served to advance the story better
"Such a fascinating story!"
The narration was excellent! I highly recommend this book. As a dressage rider and horse owner I was especially interested in this amazing story.
"Innocents Caught in the Slaughter of War"
I was really worried when I saw that Paul Boehmer was narrating this as his tone and delivery in past books had me thinking the man was just plain odd. But I was surprised, relieved, delighted when I listened to "The Perfect Horse." He did just fine, obviously enjoyed the story, was familiar with the text, and delivered the characters, humans and horses alike, with love and sincerity.
This is not only the story of the rescue and escape of the horses. This isn't, "The Monuments Men... with Horses." It starts earlier, follows the players far into the aftermath of the war.
And it ain't all wine and roses once the shooting's over.
The story is one of heroism, tragedy, sacrifice. There are air raids, bombed out cattle cars of horses and refugees, starvation, brutality. There is neglect, lack of oversight, more suffering during peace time. But mostly, there is friendship and honest devotion.
Sometimes the writing is so elegant that you're not quite immersed in the action, and sometimes Letts chooses to say simply, "There was a faux firefight," rather than write the action, which could have been riveting, or funny. Still, that's a minor, minor flaw in the writing. Other than that, it's quite good. There is one horse in particular, that you'll fall in love with.
While there is a bit of drag leading to the closing act, imagine this. While I walked in the middle of a wretched heat-drenched Central Texas summer, listening to what happened to all the people, places, horses?
I got chills. It was mesmerizing. It was delicious.
"Great story, stick with it beyond the first chapter"
This is my fourth book on audible, and I realize how important the style of narration is. I was not a fan of the narrator's style of speaking, especially in the first chapter. Initially, it felt too distracting and I almost quit the audible book to order it in paperback. The style seemed to be exaggerated especially in the beginning of the book, but it toned, and I was able to focus on the story, which was very good - especially if you happen to be a horse lover. I ordered a hardback of the book as well as a gift for a family member.
"Fascinating Read for Those Who Love Horses"
I have loved horses all my life and read every book on horses and training them that I could get my hands on.
I own nearly all of Colonel Aloud Podhajski's books. I remember reading his, "My Dancing White Horses" and think that he didn't give many details regarding the war years or about his personal life.
This book, "The Perfect Horse", expertly fills in all the details and corrects the "history" of Disney's "Miracle of the White Stallions".
I've also recently read (listened to) "The Monuments Men" and that history is briefly touched on this book, "The Perfect Horse".
All three books should be read (or listened to) to get a full-fledged understanding of the time and place, to appreciate the great things that happen when the right people are at the right place, at the right time.
"The most complete accounting of "Operation Cowboy!"
I am the President of the Pacific Northwest Lipizzan Club. I have owned and bread Lipizzans since 2000. This is the most complete accounting of "Operation Cowboy" I have read. I have had the opportunity to hear from people in the know. Great read for anyone who loves Lipizzans.
"Review of The Perfect Horse."
I highly recommend this book to horse lovers and war history buffs. The narrative is excellent and the story full of suspenceful twists and turns.
"Way too much detail"
I would only recommend it if the person was very interested in horses. There is a lot of detail in the book that is only meaningful to a "horse person."
The most interesting is the main theme: the danger into which the Lippizaners were put during WWII. The least interesting is the overwhelming detail of every single character in the book. Do we really need to know which high school a minor character went to?
I found the narrator's "German" pronunciation of names irritating. I'm sure he felt it added authenticity but to hear "Rrrrrodolfo Lessing" and similar names over and over grated.
No, the story was complete up to present day.
This book REALLY slowed down in the middle. I wouldn't have kept going except I had bought a copy as a gift for a "horsey" friend & I wanted to be able to discuss it with her. It picked up again as WWII was winding down.
If there is an abridged version available, buy that. There was WAY too much minutiae in this book.
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