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Geraldine Brooks

While stock lasts, we are delighted to offer copies of Horse that include a signed bookplate from Geraldine Brooks. Signed copies are available online and in our shops as a Readings exclusive offer. 

‘He tilted his desk lamp so that the light fell on the image. The head of a bright bay colt gazed out of the canvas, the expression in the eyes unusual and haunting.’

A discarded painting in a roadside clean-up, forgotten bones in a research archive, and Lexington, the greatest racehorse in US history. From these strands of fact, Geraldine Brooks weaves 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, even as the nation reels towards war. An itinerant young artist who makes his name from paintings of the horse takes up arms for the Union and reconnects with the stallion and his groom on a perilous night far from the glamour 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.

With the moral complexity of March and a multi-stranded narrative reminiscent of People of the Book, this enthralling novel is a gripping reckoning with the legacy of enslavement and racism in America. Horse is the latest masterpiece from a writer with a prodigious talent for bringing the past to life.


Geraldine Brooks is famous for having brought us her own distinctive take on the Black Plague, the life of King David, and the search for a rare manuscript during the Bosnian War, among other things. This time around, she’s delving into the astonishing true story of America’s most famous horse (that nobody’s ever heard of).

Lexington was a phenomenon, a champion both on the racetrack in his short career (winning six of his seven races) and on the stud farm in his retirement. But as the memories of his fame faded, so too did his place in the history books, and up until a few years ago, his skeleton was languishing in a dusty attic in the Smithsonian Institute.

Brooks brings to (fictional) life the three main players in Lexington’s life – his early owner, Warfield; his second owner, Ten Broek; and his trainer Jarret Lewis, a Black man who was as much the property of Lexington’s owners as the horse was. This isn’t just the story of a horse: this is the story of racism and prejudice running throughout different periods of American history. It’s the story of a modern-day romance between two scholars. It’s the story of skeletons and beetles that eat dead flesh. But at its core, it’s the love story of the man, Jarret Lewis, and the horse, Lexington.

As with each of Brooks’ books, the historical detail is astonishing, and you can’t escape the sense that this is really and truly the way things happened. The barns, the barbers, the drawing rooms, the streets, are all skilfully and convincingly drawn. The cruelty of humankind towards animals, as well as the cruelty of humankind towards itself feels real. This is a huge book, with enormous themes, beautifully and engagingly written. Expect it on all the prize lists this year. Brilliant!

Gabrielle Williams is the Readings Prize manager

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