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A discarded painting in a junk pile, a skeleton in an attic, and the greatest racehorse in American history: from these strands, a Pulitzer Prize winner braids 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. 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.
Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 2006 for her novel “March”. Her novels “People of the Book,” “Caleb’s Crossing,” and “The Secret Chord” all were New York Times bestsellers. Her first novel, “Year of Wonders,” is an international bestseller, translated into more than 25 languages and currently optioned for a limited series by Olivia Coleman’s production company. She is also the author of the nonfiction works “Nine Parts of Desire,” “Foreign Correspondence,” and “The Idea of Home.”
Brooks married fellow journalist and author Tony Horwitz in Tourrettes-sur-Loup, France, in 1984. They were together until his sudden death in 2019. They have two sons, Nathaniel and Bizu. She now lives with a dog named Bear and a mare named Valentine by an old mill pond on Martha’s Vineyard.
1. Do the multiple time periods help or hurt the story?
2. What are some of the 'fascinating implausible truths" in “Horse”?
3. The 19th century thoroughbred industry was based on the often-unrewarded labors of Black horsemen. Was there anything positive that came from this time for Black horsemen?
4. With whom in the story do you think the author, Geraldine Brooks, most identifies? Why?
5. Lexington certainly touched many parts of American history in some unlikely ways. Who can remember the Mohammed Ali connection?