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Summary and book reviews of Unbreakable by Richard Askwith

Unbreakable

The Woman Who Defied the Nazis in the World's Most Dangerous Horse Race

by Richard Askwith

Unbreakable by Richard Askwith X
Unbreakable by Richard Askwith
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  • Published:
    Sep 2019, 432 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Tara Mcnabb
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About this Book

Book Summary

The courageous and heartbreaking story of a Czech countess who defied the Nazis in a legendary horse race.

Czechoslovakia, October 1937. Europe's youngest democracy is on its knees. Millions are mourning the death of the nation's founding father, the saintly Tomáš Masaryk. Across the border, the Third Reich is menacing – and plotting to invade.

In the countryside, vast crowds have gathered to watch the threatened nation's most prestigious sporting contest: the Grand Pardubice steeplechase. Notoriously dangerous, the race is considered the ultimate test of manhood and fighting spirit. The Nazis have sent their paramilitary elite―SS officers on a mission to crush the "subhuman Slavs." The local cavalry officers have no hope of stopping them.

But there is one other contestant: a countess riding a little golden mare…

The story of Lata Brandisová is by turns enigmatic and inspiring. Born into privilege, she spent much of her life in poverty. Modest and shy, she refused to accept the constraints society placed on her because of her gender. Instead, with quiet courage, she repeatedly achieved what others said was impossible and rose above scandal to became her nation's figurehead in its darkest hour. Then came retribution…

Unbreakable is a story of endurance and defiance in an age of prejudice, fear, sexism, class hatred, and nationalism. Filled with eccentric aristocrats, socialite spies, daredevil jockeys―and a race so brutal that some consider merely taking part in it a sign of insanity―Unbreakable brings to life a unique hero, and an unforgettable love affair between a woman and a horse.  

8 pages of B&W photographs

Excerpt
Unbreakable

For a small nation, the Czechs have an extraordinary gift for producing sporting champions of luminous greatness. Still more remarkable is their rulers' gift—especially in the twentieth century—for disowning them. Emil Zátopek, the runner; Věra Čáslavská, the gymnast; Olga Fikotová-Connolly, the discus thrower; Martina Navratilová, the tennis player; the near-invincible national men's ice-hockey team of 1947–9 ... All dazzled and conquered their chosen worlds, only to be denounced as traitors or enemies of the people. Some were punished; all were shunned. But none fell so far or for so long as Lata Brandisová, the steeplechase jockey, who displeased not one totalitarian regime but two—having already struggled through years of prejudice on account of her gender.

In her prime, between the world wars, Jan's great-aunt was fêted by statesmen and socialites, acclaimed by chanting crowds. Her ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

In this well-researched biography, Richard Askwith takes readers on a journey into 1930s Czechoslovakia as they follow the life of Lata Brandisova, the only woman to ever win the infamous Grand Pardubice Steeplechase. To read the story of Brandisova's difficult life is to be inspired. Horse racing enthusiasts especially will appreciate the book's detailed account of track history...continued

Full Review Members Only (703 words).

(Reviewed by Tara Mcnabb).

Media Reviews

Literary Review (UK)
An astonishing achievement.

Publishers Weekly
Askwith rescues [Lata Brandisová's] remarkable, forgotten story through dogged detective work and lyrical prose. This is an intense roller coaster from start to finish.

Kirkus Reviews
Thanks to this intrepid author, Lata Brandisová re-enters the hall of champions to inspire those who come after her.

Booklist (starred review)
A significant contribution to international sports and steeplechase history, this is a moving, well-told account of a courageous heroine devoted to God, family, country, and her horses.

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Beyond the Book

Hitler's Plan to Create a 'Super Horse'

LipizzanIt's well known that Hitler obsessed over the purity of the so-called Aryan 'master race,' but many might be surprised to learn that his interest in eugenics extended to horses as well. He desperately wanted to selectively breed a line of horses that were unparalleled in strength and purity of bloodline. With snow-white coats they would be a symbol of Aryan power, and they would also be at home on the battlefield. During World War II, in order to fulfill their leader's vision, Nazis stole priceless horses from the countries they invaded, and transported the horses to secluded stud farms in the German countryside.

Hitler's obsession with horses can be traced back to the years following World War I, when the country's equine population ...

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