Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Horse by Geraldine Brooks

First Lines: No. Nup. That wouldn't do. It reeked of PhD. This was meant to be read by normal people.
Horse is based on the true story of the record-breaking Thoroughbred, Lexington.
Kentucky, 1850. An enslaved groom named Jarret and a bay Thoroughbred foal form a bond that will determine the course of both their lives. When the Civil War breaks out, the painter who made his name by his paintings of this racehorse joins the Union army only to reunite with the stallion and groom on a perilous night far from any racetrack.
New York City, 1954. Gallery owner Martha Jackson becomes obsessed with a nineteenth-century painting that has a murky provenance.
Washington, DC, 2019.  Jess, a Smithsonian scientist from Australia, and Theo, a Nigerian-American art historian find themselves connected through their shared interest in the horse-- one studying the stallion's bones for clues to his power and endurance, the other uncovering the unsung history of the Black horsemen who were critical to the horse's racing success.


Geraldine Brooks has done it again: written a transcendent book that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Brooks is a must-read author for me, but Horse was made even more special by my teenage racehorse madness years. I read every book I could get my hands on about Thoroughbred racing and its stars. My mother indulged my obsession: when she went to Kentucky on a genealogy trip, I got to overdose on racehorses, meeting greats like Citation and actually seeing the grave of Lexington, the horse that Brooks centered her book upon.

In Brooks' Afterword, she says, "As I began to research Lexington's life, it became clear to me that this novel could not merely be about a racehorse, it would also need to be about race," and she does this in masterful fashion. Whether it's watching the years pass and Lexington's groom being known as one owner's Jarret after another to-- finally-- having his own name untainted by slavery (Jarret Lewis) or watching the unfolding relationship between the interracial couple Jess and Theo in 2019 and the differences in their experiences and outlooks on the world, the reader becomes totally engaged in the characters' lives. 

Horse is so much more than a fascinating animal story. It is also a powerful story of art, science, and-- above all-- race. It is a story to take in deep. It is a story to remember.

eISBN: 9780399562983
Viking © 2022
eBook, 401 pages
Fiction, Standalone
Rating: A+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


  1. I love horses, too, Cathy, and I can see how this could be a fantastic story just on that score. But it does, as you say, sound like much more than just a story about a horse. It sounds like it's also a story of the times, of racing, and of the people involved. No wonder you loved it. And I absolutely love that sentence: It reeked of PhD. This was meant to be read by normal people. I know just what that sort of writing is like...

  2. I was very into horses growing up, too. We faithfully watched the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont every year at my house. :D This book does sound amazing.

    1. It is amazing. (And I know exactly where I was when Secretariat won the Belmont-- and the Triple Crown-- sitting on the foot of the bed in a motel room in Salt Lake City!)

  3. Sounds fascinating. I loved horses as a kid, took a few lessons. I still do love them, wish there was a stable around here so I could bring carrots and apples to them as I did when I took lessons. Did you read Seabiscuit? I saw the movie and I know of the writer, Laura
    Hillelbrand, through health issues. It sounds like a very intriguing
    read. (groan, more books)

    1. I loved both the book and the movie about Seabiscuit.

    2. I loved Seabiscuit the movie, didn't read the book. I couldn't read books about abused horses when I was a child, so avoided some of the classics.

  4. I've since read some reviews that said the ending ruined the entire book, but Brooks planted little clues all along about what was going to happen.


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