By Geraldine Brooks
An Intriguing and Insightful Story
HORSE is a sweeping tale about one of America’s greatest racehorses and about racism across time. In 1850, a bay foal was born in Kentucky and formed a tight and unbreakable lifelong bond with a young enslaved groom named Jarret. A traveling equestrian artist, Thomas Jay Scott, is hired to paint a portrait of the majestic horse soon known to the world as Lexington. Jarret, to his delight, is included in one of those portraits.
In New York City in 1954, Martha Jackson, a gallery owner specializing in contemporary art, felt strongly compelled for personal reasons to purchase a small equestrian art piece that her housekeeper owned.
In Washington, DC, in 2019, Theo, a Nigerian American art historian from London who is writing his dissertation, rescues a small equestrian painting from a pile of discarded items left on the curb by a grumpy neighbor. He takes the painting to the Smithsonian for evaluation, where he meets Jess, an Australian scientist who is putting together a horse skeleton. The two connect over their common historical interest in uncovering the lost history of Lexington and the black groomsman that loved him.
Book Epigraph: “He was as far superior to all horses that have gone before him as the vertical blaze of a tropical sun is superior to the faint and scarcely distinguishable glimmer of the most distant star.”
-Joseph Cann Simpson Turf, Field and Farm
Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks once again proves she can compellingly write about anything. Bones in an attic, a rescued painting, and one of America’s greatest racehorses are threaded together to form a multifaceted and memorable read.
HORSE is an intriguing and insightful story busting with thought-provoking and evocative prose. Lexington’s spirit and his racing accomplishments will have you cheering, while fear for Jarret will have you biting your nails. Brooks spreads this poignant story over time to show that so little has changed in attitudes in the years since the abolition of slavery.
HORSE is primarily historical fiction but at its foundations is the true story of the record-breaking thoroughbred Lexington, who won six of his first seven racing starts and surprised a nation. I listened to the audio version of the book and found the multicast performance compassionate and convincing. The pacing, voices, and tone made for an easy listen and succeeded in bringing the characters to life.
“Words could be snares. Less of them you laid out there, less likely they could trip you up."
Published June 14, 2022
Narrated James Fouhey, Lisa Flanagan, Graham Halstead, Katherine Littrell, Michael Iberia