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Review: Horse by Geraldine Brooks


Title: Horse

Author: Geraldine Brooks
Year published: 2022
Category: Adult fiction (historical)
Pages: 416 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location: (my 2024 Google Reading map)USA (Washington DC, KT, LA, MA, MD)

SummaryKentucky, 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. When the nation erupts in civil war, an itinerant young artist who has made his name on paintings of the racehorse takes up arms for the Union. On a perilous night, he reunites with the stallion and his groom, very far from the glamor 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.
Based on the remarkable true story of the record-breaking thoroughbred Lexington, Horse is a novel of art and science, love and obsession, and our unfinished reckoning with racism.

Review: I liked Brooks' Year of Wonder, March, and People of the Book, so was looking forward to this novel.

This is my kind of novel: historical fiction that spans multiple centuries and has seemingly unrelated characters. Of course, I knew that the connections among them would be revealed throughout the story and they were brought together in such a way that I thought, oh yes! Great way to work that in. 

Brooks has a way with telling a good story, making the characters real and interesting, and showing the reader what it was like culturally in the various eras. The chapters that live in the pre-Civil War years are interesting and painful as the treatment of free and enslaved black people is front and center without being in your face. She shows how entrenched racism in the US was then and is still now.

Each character is narrated by a fully formed individual and I wanted to know what happened to each of them. I wanted to know which bits were real, which were imagined, and which were a combinations. If you are a frequent reader of this blog then you know how much I like a good Afterword and this book has two: the Afterword contains the author's thoughts and comments on the research and factual basis for the novel and the Historical Connections lists the people as they really were and what we know about them.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Alphabet Author--B
  • Bookish--journalists/newspapers, PhD thesis, journals/diaries, and learning how to read
  • Literary Escapes--Washington DC, Massachusetts, Maryland

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