Viking. Jun. 2022. 416p. ISBN 9780399562969. $28. F
Pulitzer Prize winner Brooks writes historical fiction (People of the Book; March), but she also writes about our endless fascination with, and abuse of, power. Here, power is literally embodied in Lexington, one of the most successful race horses in history and around whom this novel is centered. Moving across three centuries, the story is told through Jarret, the horse’s enslaved handler in the late 1850s; Martha, a gallery owner specializing in horse paintings in the 1950s; Jess, an osteologist interested in the horse’s skeleton; and Theo, a budding art historian who comes to possess a painting of the horse in 2019. Brooks illuminates Lexington’s illustrious racing history while also detailing the profit reaped from the horse’s abilities, likeness, and bones. This history is paralleled with the historical erasure of Jarrett’s contributions to the horse’s prowess and success. Once again, Brooks probes our understanding of history to reveal the power structures that create both the facts and the fiction.
VERDICT Brooks 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. Highly recommended.
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