Horse: A Novel (Hardcover)
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.
About the Author
Geraldine Brooks is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel March and the international bestsellers The Secret Chord, Caleb’s Crossing, People of the Book, and Year of Wonders. She has also written the acclaimed nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Born and raised in Australia, Brooks lives in Massachusetts.
Advance praise for Horse:
“Horse isn’t just an animal story—it’s a moving narrative about race and art.”
“This is historical fiction at its finest, connecting threads of the past with the present to illuminate that essentially human something . . . Calling all horse girls: This is the story of the most important racehorse you've never heard of, but it's also so much more than that.”
“With exceptional characterizations, Pulitzer Prize–winner Brooks tells an emotionally impactful tale . . . [The] settings are pitch-perfect, and the story brings to life the important roles filled by Black horsemen in America’s past. Brooks also showcases the magnificent beauty and competitive spirit of Lexington himself.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Brooks probes our understanding of history to reveal the power structures that create both the facts and the fiction . . . [She] has penned a clever and richly detailed novel about how we commodify, commemorate, and quantify winning in the United States, all through the lens of horse racing.”
—Library Journal (starred review)
“[A] marvelous novel. Brooks structures the book like a mystery . . . Through Jarret's story, the author reveals the unique and indispensable role Black trainers and jockeys played in the pre-Civil War South . . . Equestrian or no, readers will appreciate Brooks's invitation to linger awhile among beautiful and graceful horses, to see the devotion they engendered in her characters.”
“A fascinating saga based on the true story of a famous 19th-century racehorse . . . Brooks’s multiple narratives and strong character development captivate, and she soars with the story of Jarret.”
“[Brooks] demonstrates imaginative empathy [...] and provides some sardonic correctives to White cluelessness . . . Brooks skillfully [...] demonstrate[s] how the poison of racism lingers. Contemporary parallels are unmistakable . . . Strong storytelling in service of a stinging moral message.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Praise for Geraldine Brooks:
“Brooks is a master at bringing the past alive . . . in [her]skillful hands the issues of the past echo our own deepest concerns: love and loss, drama and tragedy, chaos and brutality.”
—Alice Hoffman, The Washington Post
“[Brooks] makes a masterly case for the generative power of retelling . . . [her] real accomplishment is that she also enables readers to feel the spirit of the place.”
—The New York Times
“There’s something bordering on the supernatural about Geraldine Brooks. She seems able to transport herself back to earlier time periods, to time travel. Sometimes, reading her work, she draws you so thoroughly into another era that you swear she’s actually lived in it. With sensory acuity and a deep and complex understanding of emotional states, she conjures up the way we lived then . . . enrapturing.”
—The Boston Globe