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    Horse, by Geraldine Brooks

    If you love horses and books, what could be better than books about horses? When I’m not riding, thinking about riding or otherwise obsessing about horses, I can often be found reading about them. Admittedly, any book with a horse on the cover or in the title has a good chance of finding its way onto my reading list. So, when I heard about Horse, by Geraldine Brooks, being touted as one of the best books of 2022, I was eager to read it.

    Horse, by Geraldine Brooks

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    “Not just Horse,” she said. “The horse. What you have here is the greatest racing stallion in American turf history.”

    In Horse, Geraldine Brooks weaves together the stories of several characters across three time periods, all connected by the legacy of the racehorse Lexington. As a racehorse, Lexington was once known as the fastest horse in the world, and he later became one of the most prolific sires of the 19th century.

    We first meet Lexington (initially known as Darley,) through the eyes of Jarret, the groom, who had raised Darley from a foal. Jarret and Darley form an inseparable bond. Through Jarret’s connection with Darley, we see both the beauty of the relationship between human and horse, as well as the ugliness that surrounded them both, in the context of 1850’s Kentucky.

    We also see Darley, (who had been renamed Lexington), as the subject of a nineteenth century painting. One hundred years after Lexington’s lifetime, we learn more about his story through gallery owner, Martha Jackson’s, efforts to uncover the origins of the painting.

    The rest of Lexington’s story unfolds, quite literally, through his bones. More than one hundred fifty years after his death, Jess, a Smithsonian scientist, and Theo, an art historian, uncover more of Lexington’s story through their work to piece together his bones and preserve his legacy. Their work reveals much more than the story of a great horse- it’s a startling reflection on the complex legacy of violence, toward both man and horse, that is at the heart of this story.

    Despite his enduring legacy, I had never heard of Lexington before reading Horse. Although his reassembled skeleton had been on display at the National Museum of Natural History for many years, his notoriety remained lost in time for many more years. Horse breathes life back into those bones and puts Lexington back in his rightful place as the horse that changed the future of racing stock in America for generations to come.

    One of the few known photographs of Lexington, from the NY Public Library Archives

    For another great book about this amazing horse, check out my post about the book Lexington!