Horse is a historical novel spanning many story arcs, all connected by what most people believe to be the greatest racehorse who ever lived.
The horse is an antebellum Kentucky thoroughbred named after the capital of that state, Lexington. His trainer and lifelong friend is Jarret, a slave. But the novel doesn’t start there. It begins in current day Washington, DC, with the unlikely developing affair between a Cambridge-educated art student from Africa and an Australian lass who has her dream job at the Smithsonian working with their collection of bones. Odd couple indeed.
It is, at its core, a story about race, particularly in the United States. Since the art student from Africa, Theo, did not grow up in the US, he is painfully blind to what most African Americans refer to as ‘the talk.’ The microaggressions Theo experiences are contrasted to those in the early part of the 19th century vividly lived by Jarret.
Art is the glue that binds the past with the present, since the art student Theo retrieves a painting cast by the curb with other clutter, which he discovers to be of the horse Lexington with an unidentified slave proudly holding his reins. Then we read the account of the painter, Thomas Scott, who tells of its creation 170 years ago. Interspersed with Scott’s chapters are those with Jarret’s voice.
The author, Geraldine Brooks, is a master of giving voice to these characters that sound of the period, but with each different. The story is compelling, not perfect, but the book remains thoughtfully complete.
I recommend it.