Book Review: Horse by Geraldine Brooks

About the Book:

A discarded painting in a roadside clean-up, forgotten bones in a research archive, and Lexington, the greatest racehorse in US history. From these strands of fact, Geraldine Brooks weaves a sweeping story of spirit, obsession and injustice across American history.

Kentucky, 1850. An enslaved groom named Jarret and a bay foal forge a bond of understanding that will carry the horse to record-setting victories across the South, even as the nation reels towards war. An itinerant young artist who makes his name from paintings of the horse takes up arms for the Union and reconnects with the stallion and his groom on a perilous night far from the glamour of any racetrack.

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 Smithsonian scientist from Australia, 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.

With the moral complexity of March and a multi-stranded narrative reminiscent of People of the Book, this enthralling novel is a gripping reckoning with the legacy of enslavement and racism in America. Horse is the latest masterpiece from a writer with a prodigious talent for bringing the past to life.

Published by Hachette Australia

Released June 2022

My Thoughts:

I’m not sure there’s much that I can say about this novel beyond concurring that it is a modern masterpiece. It is the first novel in recent years to make me cry. I truly feel lost for words.

The relationship between the horse, Lexington, and Jarret, was so very beautiful. I adore books that demonstrate a connection between humans and animals and this story had two such relationships, with Theo and his Kelpie Clancy also having an incredible bond.

The direction the story took for Jess and Theo was shocking, all the more so for its authenticity. The parallels between Theo’s contemporary experiences within modern American society and Jarret’s as a slave in 19th century America were startling to observe.

The way in which Geraldine tied all of her historical threads together was so impressive, and as a reader, I am filled with gratitude for her talent. Reading this novel was pure pleasure, being in the comforting hands of a skilled master for the duration, it has left me with the biggest void to fill now that I’ve finished it.

Shortlisted for the 2022 ARA Historical Novel Prize, Horse is a novel entirely in a class of its own.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

8 thoughts on “Book Review: Horse by Geraldine Brooks

  1. Agreed! I found this so readable, even though it contains some heavy subjects. Brooks really is a master at balancing everything that makes historical fiction truly compelling. So glad you enjoyed! xx

    Liked by 1 person

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