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A Novel

by Geraldine Brooks

Horse by Geraldine Brooks X
Horse by Geraldine Brooks
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  • Published:
    Jun 2022, 416 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Jane McCormack
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Power Reviewer
Cathryn Conroy

A Masterpiece! Truly Imaginative, Multilayered Story That Is a Gripping, Can't-Put-It-Down Read
A book about a racehorse from the 1850s? Well, that doesn't interest me. But a book by Geraldine Brooks? That I cannot resist. She is one of my favorite authors, and this novel is yet again a reason why.

Quite simply, this is a masterpiece. It's a truly imaginative, multilayered story that is a gripping, can't-put-it-down read.

The book is several stories in one, but the common thread is the true story of Lexington, a powerful, legendary racehorse in the 1850s that transformed the sport. With Lexington as the centerpiece, Brooks has crafted multiple stories, each of which is riveting:
• Lexington, Kentucky, 1850: Jarrett, an enslaved young man in Kentucky, has a special talent for training horses. At a young age, he is given responsibility for Lexington, and the two develop a special bond that is never severed. One night during the Civil War, Jarrett's courage and passion are supremely tested.

• Lexington, Kentucky, 1850: Thomas J. Scott is an itinerant painter specializing in horses. His chapters are written in the first person just as he would have spoken.

• New York City, 1954: Martha Jackson is one of the very few female art dealers. Although she specializes in modern art, she comes across an oil painting of Lexington of mysterious origin.

• Washington, D.C., 2019: The unlikely pair of Jess, an Australian bone specialist with the Smithsonian who finds Lexington's preserved skeleton in a Smithsonian warehouse attic, and Theo, a Nigerian American PhD student in art history at Georgetown University who finds one of Scott's paintings of Lexington discarded in a curbside junk pile, meet and develop both a professional and personal relationship.

But this is more than a horse story. Throughout the book, Brooks deftly deals with racism—from the cruelty and inhumanity of slavery to the piercing and hurtful racial microaggressions that taunt Blacks today. How Jarrett and Theo feel and how they are treated is as important a part of the story as what they do.

The chapters bounce back and forth in time and place, but Brooks, the consummate storyteller, always has it under control so it's never confusing or disjointed. Rich historical detail, complex characters, and writing that is pitch-perfect together make this an extraordinary novel—even for those of us who know nothing about racehorses.

An aside: The dedication made me cry. Truly. So much that I couldn't turn the page right away.

beautiful book
Not an equestrian personally but the beauty in which Brookes writes of horses and their keepers is fantastic and entrancing. She does not hesitate to go into the very uncomfortable past and present state of race and relations and the often inhumane treatment of animals and the juxtaposition of the two.
Marie Cassidy-Walker

Thoroughly recommended
"Smithsonian Museum Support Centre, Maryland 2019: Catherine stepped up to the exhibit label on the plinth and drew out her reading glasses. “Horse!” she read. “I can’t believe it! I don’t suppose you people have the Mona Lisa stashed somewhere, labelled, Smiling Girl?” She ran a finger over the terse nameplate. “Not just Horse,” she said. “The horse. What you have here is the greatest racing stallion in American turf history.” (p70)

This is the story of an enslaved groom named Jarret and the compelling relationship between him and a famous US thoroughbred racehorse called Lexington. It is a story about enslavement, racism, horse racing, art and science and the book is set in 3 different time periods: 1850, 1950, and 2019. The story lines have been thoroughly researched and I learned so much, loved it.
Renee Claudette Shambeau

The best book I have read this year!
Author's command of English is excellent. The Art and Science and Character development and the Horse himself led to very satisfying reading. I have read many books on racism and slavery and the story Brooks tells is a whole new slant on history.
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