Group Read: Horse by Geraldine Brooks

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Group Read: Horse by Geraldine Brooks

Editado: Fev 4, 2023, 8:05 am

"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...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 (b-1955) 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. Brooks married fellow journalist and author Tony Horwitz in Tourette-sur-Loup France in 1984 and were together until his sudden death in 2019."

Editado: Jan 29, 2023, 7:49 am

I have not hosted many group reads these past couple of years but I do enjoy doing shared reads and there seemed to be a lot of interest in reading Brooks' latest offering, Horse. I thought it warranted its own thread. I am a big fan of Brooks. I have read and enjoyed 5 of her previous books, starting with People of the Book. I think that may have been my very first Group Read hosting gig, back in 2009. Her debut, Year of Wonders remains my favorite.

I plan on starting the book at the beginning of February. The 2nd or 3rd. I am sure everyone will be reading it at their own pace, so please post comments along the way but do your very best to avoid spoilers. Most of us are seasoned LTers, so we know the deal. Let's have a good time with it.

Editado: Jan 29, 2023, 8:54 am

I'm most definitely in. I too am a fan. Thanks for setting this up, Mark!

Jan 29, 2023, 8:43 am

>3 Carmenere: Great, Lynda. I know you started it already. How far in?

"I took am a fan." ?? LOL.

Jan 29, 2023, 8:56 am

About 25% in.
Haha ok it's early, I corrected it.

Jan 29, 2023, 10:53 am

Thanks for setting this up, Mark. I’ll probably start late this week so same time as you or maybe a day or two later.

Looking forward to it. I’ve never read anything by Brooks.

Jan 29, 2023, 12:04 pm

>6 lindapanzo: I’ve never read anything by Brooks.

You are in for a treat, Linda, if this book is up to the standard of her other books!

I will probably start on the first. I am still wrapping up books for January.

Jan 29, 2023, 12:29 pm

>7 alcottacre: Sounds good. It looks like I'm matching with quite a few of your February TIOLI books, 4 or 5 it seems, including this one (and you're following along on my The Thin Man).

Jan 29, 2023, 3:13 pm

I have my copy and I'm in for this group read!

Editado: Jan 29, 2023, 5:11 pm

>6 lindapanzo: >7 alcottacre: >9 EBT1002: I am glad you are joining us, Linda, Stasia & Ellen. We should have a good time.


Jan 29, 2023, 8:02 pm

Added this to the group wiki. Have fun!

Fev 2, 2023, 12:54 am

Starting it tonight! Very excited for this one.

Fev 2, 2023, 8:39 am

>10 msf59: Thank you for that!

Fev 2, 2023, 8:57 am

>12 alcottacre: >13 Carmenere: I am so glad you both started it. I may be a little behind. I misjudged the length of my current read.

Anyone else start it?

Fev 2, 2023, 11:54 am

I'll probably start it tonight (Thurs evening) or else on Friday.

Fev 3, 2023, 12:21 am

Have my copy!! Starting it soon. : )

Fev 3, 2023, 8:21 am

>15 lindapanzo: >16 Berly: Glad to have you both along the "ride". Sorry, bad pun. I probably won't start it until tomorrow.

Fev 3, 2023, 11:05 am

>17 msf59: I read a bit while eating breakfast this morning but didn't get too far into it. The timing is good because I'll have this evening, tomorrow afternoon and much of Sunday to read

Fev 3, 2023, 1:56 pm

>17 msf59: Bad pun, Mark!! I was a bit worried when I read the italicized opener, too stiff and dense, only to be greatly relieved when it was followed by "No. Nup. That wouldn't do. It reeked of PhD." So there's gonna be some humor in here -- yay! Two chapters in already and liking it.

Editado: Fev 3, 2023, 11:57 pm

>19 Berly: I'm at about the same place as you, I think. I've met Theo and Jess so far. That opening paragraph on my Kindle made me wonder if I'd continue with the book but yes, quickly erased.

Update: I’m about 15 percent into it on my Kindle and really getting wrapped up in it. No time to read, though, til later Saturday afternoon.

Fev 4, 2023, 5:35 pm

I have read three books by Geraldine Brooks. One of them with Mark back in the day. People of the Book. I liked it better than he did. I also read March and Year of Wonders. I thought March was well done. It is my favorite of Brooks' books. Year of Wonder ranks next and then People of the Book. Even though I ranked People of the Book last I still liked it. I admit that the ending got muddled. I am going to try to join you in reading Horse, but I may not be able to get it read as fast as the rest of you. I have lots going on this month and lots of reading commitments as well.

Editado: Fev 4, 2023, 7:07 pm

“It wasn’t a good idea to speak without putting a deal of thought into it. Words could be snares. Less of them you laid out there, less likely they could trap you up. “

“...a racehorse is a mirror, and a man sees his own reflection there. He wants to think he’s from the best breeding. He wants to think himself brave. Can he win against all comers? And if not, does he have self-mastery to take a loss, stay cool in defeat, and try again undaunted? Those are the great qualities of a great racehorse and a great gentleman.”

^Well, I am finally out of the starting gate, without a hitch. 85 pages in. Not exactly a full sprint but at least an easy canter. Not sure how everyone is feeling about it but I am solidly hooked, completely entranced by her butter-smooth narrative. Brooks is at the top of her game. I love these characters but I am especially rootin' for Jarret.

How is everyone else doing?

Fev 4, 2023, 7:26 pm

I'm on page 101. Quite enjoying it. Your comment about an easy canter resonates for me. I'm totally hooked but finding it a book to read in chunks rather than all at once.

I've read two of Geraldine Brooks' other works, Year of Wonders and March. Year of Wonders was a 5-star read for me.

Editado: Fev 5, 2023, 11:30 am

I'm 60% in and I think, coincidence or not, this is a great selection for Black History Month.

>23 EBT1002: As Ellen said, reading the book "in chunks" has worked for me and emersed me into the times and locations. It allows me to savor place and situations.

Editado: Fev 5, 2023, 12:04 pm

>22 msf59: I did not get any of Horse read yesterday - sorry about that - but I left off at page 141 on Friday. I am hoping to be able to get some read today. I am very much enjoying the book thus far.

>24 Carmenere: I had forgotten that this is Black History Month, Lynda. You are right - Horse is certainly a fitting book for this month's reads.

Previous to Horse, I have read Year of Wonders, March, People of the Book, and Nine Parts of Desire by Brooks. I own Caleb's Crossing, but have not yet read it.

I enjoy her books, but I find that Brooks has a problem with the endings. Maybe that is just me.

Fev 5, 2023, 12:59 pm

I had plans to read this am. Then my sister called. Let’s just say we’re very chatty sisters. I think we talked for two hours. There’s always this evening.

I’m about 25 percent into it and very much enjoying it.

Fev 6, 2023, 1:36 pm

I am liking this very well, on page 114. The dedication was so sweet and sad, that started me off on a good way. I love the way that Brooks can create a character so that you feel you know them after just a few pages.

I've read Year of Wonders, March, People of the Book, Caleb's Crossing, The Secret Chord and Foreign Correspondence

Fev 6, 2023, 5:41 pm

>25 alcottacre:
I agree with you about the endings. I thought that Year of Wonders ended badly too. I think she just doesn't know how to wrap things up because she is so immersed in the story. March was the only one that I thought ended with a well written ending. That is why I rank it among her best novels. There is no doubt in my mind that she can write, but she seems to just go off on some weird way at the end, leaving the reader wondering - Uh? March had a natural ending. Everybody got tired, exhausted, and burnt out and needed rest. Fortunately, the war ended and THEN everybody went home. Expect for the Contraband, but the story wasn't about them. That was a natural break point and Brooks made good use of it.

Fev 6, 2023, 6:26 pm

I am trotting right along. At the 230-page mark. We are fast approaching Lexington's first big race. I think Brooks is handling the different timelines very smoothly.

I have to agree with Lynda that this makes a perfect fit for Black History Month, even if was accidental.

>25 alcottacre: >28 benitastrnad: I don't remember having any issues with her endings. Maybe, it is just me. 😉

Fev 6, 2023, 8:51 pm

>28 benitastrnad: I thought maybe it was just me who had an issue with her endings.

I am hoping to finish up the book tomorrow - provided it goes better than today has gone. I am thoroughly enjoying it.

Fev 7, 2023, 12:14 am

I’m about 3/4 in and also hoping to finish it on Tuesday. Also hoping that, based on the comments above, there isn’t a disappointing ending.

Fev 7, 2023, 7:18 am

Finito! Interesting and somewhat masterful how Brooks brings historical fiction alive and ties it to current events. Brava!

Editado: Fev 7, 2023, 7:23 am

>30 alcottacre: >31 lindapanzo: I will probably finish it tomorrow, so we are bunched up pretty good, heading for the homestretch.

Fev 7, 2023, 7:22 am

>32 Carmenere: So a nice finish, Lynda? 🤞🤞

Editado: Fev 7, 2023, 7:34 am

>34 msf59: haha I'm not going to tell you that!!
I'm looking forward to the thoughts of others who weren't satisfied with the ending of Brooks' previous novels.

Fev 7, 2023, 7:28 am

Ooh, the suspense builds...

Fev 7, 2023, 10:37 am

I am hoping to finish today and I will see if there is a photo finish at the end. . .

Fev 7, 2023, 3:47 pm

I didn't like the ending of Year of Wonders; but I don't remember being bothered by any of the other endings. I probably have 2-3 days left on Horse... but it's so good maybe I will read faster!

Fev 7, 2023, 10:28 pm

Just finished it. Wow, what a book!!

Fev 8, 2023, 7:36 am

>37 alcottacre: >39 lindapanzo: Glad to hear you both loved it. Yah!!

I am currently at 310 pages. I should be close to finishing it today. Jarret is turning into quite the man.

Fev 8, 2023, 6:44 pm

^Just crossed the finish line, on Horse, displaying a victory flag. Brooks delivers again...more comments later.

Fev 9, 2023, 8:07 pm

I finished last night. I am reminded of the Faulkner line: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past."

Fev 12, 2023, 8:51 am

>42 banjo123: Good quote, Rhonda.

Fev 12, 2023, 8:51 am

Horse by Geraldine Brooks 4.8 stars

“...a racehorse is a mirror, and a man sees his own reflection there. He wants to think he’s from the best breeding. He wants to think himself brave. Can he win against all comers? And if not, does he have self-mastery to take a loss, stay cool in defeat, and try again undaunted? Those are the great qualities of a great racehorse and a great gentleman.”

“Only horses were honest, in the end.”

“You have to know that bigots are unwittingly handing you an edge. By thinking you're lesser than they are, they underestimate you. Lean on that. Learn to use it, and you'll get the upper hand.”

This is a story about Lexington, the greatest American racehorse. He was also a racehorse that very few people know about. The novel follows several different timelines from 1850 to 2019. Lexington’s beginnings as a promising colt, with a fine bloodline, being groomed to be a fierce competitor. The story is also about slaves and ex-slaves who worked as horse trainers and were incredibly gifted. Another historical fact, that has been lost. A very ambitious book, meticulously researched and beautifully written. Brooks is a horse lover and you can see it on every page.

Fev 12, 2023, 8:52 am

Has everyone else finished? Final thoughts? I definitely enjoyed the Group Read.

Fev 12, 2023, 11:40 pm

I definitely was impressed by the research and historical detail. But So sad about Theo. He was my favorite. It made sense in context of the story, but, so sad.

Fev 13, 2023, 12:39 am

>46 banjo123: I wholly agree, Rhonda. I appreciated her comment in the notes at the end where she said this couldn't be a story about horse racing without also being a story about race. But ouch.

I finished last night, giving it 4.5 stars. Such great characters, including Lexington himself. I think they'll stay with me.

Fev 13, 2023, 7:41 am

>46 banjo123: I have to agree with you about, Theo, Rhonda. A good character.

>47 EBT1002: Nothing wrong with 4.5, Ellen. Glad to hear you loved it. A terrific read.

Fev 13, 2023, 11:52 am

I also did 4.5 stars, though I might move it up or down when I've had more time to reflection. I thought the flow was a tad uneven in parts.

Fev 14, 2023, 1:01 pm

I gave the book 4.5 stars as well. I thought Brooks did a great job with the juxtaposition of the characters of Jarrett and Theo.

Editado: Fev 14, 2023, 1:41 pm

I really enjoyed the story line. I did not reread it right now because I'll be rereading it for my book club this summer.

I'm taking part in Paul's African authors read. One of the points brought up this month was about Mozambican author Mia Couto being of Portuguese descent but often writing from the indigenous/black point of view.

Extreme side of the coin #1: Anyone can write any character. To tell people what they cannot write is slipping into fascism.
Extreme side of the coin #2: Writing the experiences of another race is cultural appropriation.

I honestly didn't think of this book as 'a white woman writing about racism'. I thought her portrayal of slavery and racism was unique and enlightening. But now in light of the above conversation about Couto, I have to ask if anyone was disturbed by this.

Fev 14, 2023, 4:18 pm

I went to a lecture with Colson Whithead some years ago, and what he said on the subject resonated with me. He said authors should write about what they wanted to/were moved to write about; but that if you write from another experience, and you get it wrong, people will let you know that you got it wrong.

I figure that if authors didn't write from other points of view, there would be nothing to read but autobiography. But I do think it can be tricky to get it right if you are telling the story from a perspective other than your own. In this case, I think Brooks did the work to get the perspective right, and it worked for me. It would be interesting to get an African American perspective on that however.

Sometimes when men write from a woman's perspective, I think that they messed up and it's annoying. Other times, it's fine. I wouldn't call it appropriation, though, just messing up.

Fev 14, 2023, 6:06 pm

>52 banjo123: I love your response. That seems to sum it up perfectly for me, but I recognize there may be other views.

Fev 16, 2023, 12:27 am

>52 banjo123: Love this commentary.

Fev 17, 2023, 9:26 pm

Fev 17, 2023, 11:01 pm

Just finished reading Horse and I thought it was stunningly good. I loved the different time frames and how the characters and issues intersected. It's going to be a favorite of this year!

Fev 18, 2023, 8:25 am

>56 Berly: I am so glad you loved it, Kim. We should enjoy our next shared read too. 😉

Fev 18, 2023, 7:28 pm

Well, duh! : )