Thursday, December 29, 2022

Fiction Review: Horse

I have a weird relationship with novelist Geraldine Brooks. Whenever I hear about one of her novels, I always think, "I'm not interested in that." Then, I read it (often for book group) and absolutely love it! So, when I heard about her latest novel, Horse, I again thought I wasn't interested in reading a novel about a racehorse (even though I just read and loved Seabiscuit for Nonfiction November). But, my neighborhood book group chose it for December, so I listened to it on audio, and ... you guessed it! I thoroughly enjoyed this engrossing story spanning more than 150 years.

In 2019, a young man named Theo, a Nigerian-American art history graduate student attending Georgetown University, is searching for a subject for his thesis. One day, he sees that his neighbor across the street has set out a bunch of old furniture and other household items on the sidewalk with a sign saying "Free." As he's walking by, Theo spots a painting. He pulls it out and sees it's a small painting of a horse, with a Black boy standing next to it. Intrigued, he pulls it from the giveaway pile and begins looking into it. Meanwhile, Jess, a young Australian woman who works at the Smithsonian putting together animal skeletons, hears about a missing horse skeleton from a colleague in the UK who suspects it may be stored at the Smithsonian. Jess finds the skeleton in storage and begins to work on it. Back in 1850, a Black boy named Jarret lives on a Kentucky horse farm. His adopted father, Harry, is a free man, thanks to his skill at training horses that allowed him to earn money and buy his freedom. When a new foal is born on the farm, Harry and the farm's owner give it to Jarret to train himself. As the horse grows, a traveling painter named Thomas Scott comes to the farm and is hired to paint the horses. Unfortunately, Jarret's life with his beloved horse does not unfold as he expected, and the two of them end up in Louisiana, where they again encounter Scott. Meanwhile, in the present day, Theo and Jess meet and work together to investigate the mystery of the horse from its skeleton and its painting.

Brooks is talented at weaving together an intricate story of different people in different time periods whose lives intertwine (much as she did in People of the Book). Her characters are three dimensional and interesting, and I came to care about them. As always in her historical fiction, she's taken a fascinating real-life but little-known piece of history and built a fully fleshed-out story around it. You can read the true story of the discovery of this horse, his trainer, and the painter in this article from Smithsonian magazine. The audio production was excellent, with multiple narrators reading the chapters from different characters' perspectives, which helped to bring them all to life. The narrative skillfully moves from past to present and back again, creating a sense of suspense in this already compelling story that is not only about horses and racing but also about art, history, racism, and love. Once again, I enjoyed every moment of this captivating novel by Geraldine Brooks. Next time, I won't waffle about whether to read one of her novels!

416 pages, Viking

Penguin Audio

Two other Geraldine Brooks novels I enjoyed (besides People of the Book) were Year of Wonders and Caleb's Crossing (my reviews at the links).

This book fits in the following 2022 Reading Challenges:


Diversity Challenge

Literary Escapes - Louisiana


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Listen to a sample of the audiobook here, one of Theo's sections from the beginning of the novel, and/or download it from Audible.


You can buy the book through, where your purchase will support the indie bookstore of your choice (or all indie bookstores)--the convenience of shopping online while still buying local!




Or you can order Horse from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.



  1. I am just starting to see this book pop up on various blogs so am glad to hear you liked it!

    1. Great historical fiction, Helen - like all of Brooks' novels