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by Geraldine Brooks
The fastest horse of his time, the groom who loved him, the artist who painted him, and the students who studied him a century and a half later – all come together in this meaty, impeccably researched, historically accurate and enlightening story set over three time periods:
Kentucky, 1850. An enslaved groom named Jarret and a bay foal named Lexington forge a bond of understanding that will carry the horse to record-setting victories on the newly established race tracks across the American South, while the itinerant young artist who made his name painting the celebrated racehorse takes up arms for the Union.
New York City, 1954. Martha Jackson, a gallery owner celebrated for taking risks on edgy contemporary painters, becomes obsessed with a nineteenth-century equestrian oil painting of mysterious provenance.
Washington, DC, 2019. Jess, a scientist from Australia working at the Smithsonian Institute, and Theo, a Nigerian-American art historian, find themselves unexpectedly 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 lost history of the unsung Black horsemen who were critical to his racing success.
Based on the remarkable true story of the record-breaking thoroughbred Lexington who went on to sire hundreds of foals, many of them champions themselves, as well as the true-life characters who influenced his life, Horse is a novel of art and science, love and obsession, and our unfinished reckoning with racism.
A testament to the intelligence and humanity of animals, a stinging rebuke of racist and abusive humans, and a study of how the past gets recorded, remembered, and remade . . . anyone who ever grew up loving horses, anyone who dearly loves an animal, will find a cornucopia of riches in this novel. – Boston Globe
Brooks [has an] almost clairvoyant ability to conjure up the textures of the past and of each character’s inner life . . . Her felicitous, economical style and flawless pacing carries us briskly yet unhurriedly along. And the novel’s alternating narratives, by suspending time, also intensify suspense – Wall Street Journal
Brooks cut her journalistic teeth on the racing beat, and she knows her way around a horse. This book returns the Australian-American novelist to the terrain that won her a Pulitzer prize with March, her 2005 tale of the war-absent father from Little Women. She brings the same archival confidence and sensory flair to the antebellum racetrack. Jarret’s portion of Horse is exactly the novel you’d expect: bloodlines and broodmares; farriers and knackeries; wild gambles, wild gallops and plantation-era grotesqueries. A dollop of civil war valour. And at the centre of it all, love story: a boy and his horse – The Guardian
[A] deft novel . . . create[s] a picture of the artistic, athletic, and scientific passions that horses can inspire in humans. – The New Yorker
Horse isn’t just an animal story – it’s a moving narrative about race and art. – TIME
Quick video of Geraldine Brooks introducing Horse.