Lesley Hewitt

Horse, a fictional novel by Australian historical fiction writer, Geraldine Brooks, is based on the true story of Lexington, the record -breaking American thoroughbred who became America’s greatest stud sire.

Lexington, born in Kentucky in 1850 sired 236 race winners and is still in the pedigree of horses racing today. But Brook’s novel is not just about Lexington. Crossing several time lines it tells the story of Jarret, an enslaved black man who formed a bond with the foal and became Lexington’s groom, highlighting the harsh reality of slavery, the history of racing in America and the American civil war and the reconstruction period; the story of Martha Jackson , a New York gallery owner, instrumental in promoting contemporary art and  who in 1954 took possession of a painting of Lexington; and in 2019 the story of Theo, a Nigerian/American art historian and Jess, a Smithsonian scientist from Australia and their relationship.

The horse, Lexington links these three time periods together and so the book is a multi-layered story of injustice, slavery, horse racing, animal welfare, art history, Black Lives Matter, science, and American history. Whilst there has been some criticism of Brooks writing from the perspective of a Black man, the book is an engaging work of historical fiction that introduces the reader to complex historical and current day race relationships in the USA.

The book is available from Paradise Books, Daylesford, or the Hepburn Shire libraries. Below is a link to the Hepburn Radio discussion of Horse on the Second Thursday Book Review.