Book Review – The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Hellsmouth, a wilful thoroughbred filly, has the legacy of a family riding on her.

The Forges: one of the oldest and proudest families in Kentucky; descended from the first settlers to brave the Wilderness Road; as mythic as the history of the South itself – and now, first-time horse breeders.

Through an act of naked ambition, Henry Forge is attempting to blaze this new path on the family’s crop farm. His daughter, Henrietta, becomes his partner in the endeavour but has desires of her own. When Allmon Shaughnessy, an African American man fresh from prison, comes to work in the stables, the ugliness of the farm’s history rears its head. Together through sheer will, the three stubbornly try to create a new future – one that isn’t determined by Kentucky’s bloody past – while they mould Hellsmouth into a champion.

The Sport of Kings has the force of an epic. A majestic story of speed and hunger, racism and justice, this novel is an astonishment from start to finish.

Review:

So this is the final Bailey’s Prize shortlisted book I had left to review! It was actually the second last one I read but I adored The Power so much that I just had to review it first. Anyway, this was the book that I was least looking forward to reading because I have absolutely no interest in horse riding and it was described as a “Great American Novel” which I’m also not a huge fan of. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised and ended up enjoying the book even though it’s definitely not something I would have chosen to read if not for my goal of reading the entire shortlist.

As the synopsis says, the story follows Henry Forge as he inherits his family farm and turns to horse breeding. We start off with Henry as a child and follow both him and his family through the struggles that face them in their goal of the ultimate racehorse.

This is a very slow book, focusing heavily on the characters themselves and their growth and so it took me a while to get into it due to not being that interested in them. However, once I grew fond of the characters, I found it much harder to put down as I wanted to keep reading and find out how they would manage and how Hellsmouth would do in the races.

It is quite a large novel, however don’t let that put you off as it’s a very rewarding read. I would definitely recommend this novel, as I would with most of the shortlisted books for the Bailey’s Prize. I can see this book winning, although personally it would not be the one I would choose to win. I’ve also chosen to use this for the USA for my Around the World challenge as I feel it’s a very good representation of America.

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Book Review – The Bone Readers by Jacob Ross

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Secrets can be buried, but bones can speak… When Michael (Digger) Digson is recruited into DS Chilman’s new plain clothes squad in the small Caribbean island of Camaho he brings his own mission to discover who amongst a renegade police squad killed his mother in a political demonstration.

Sent to London to train in forensics, Digger becomes enmeshed in Chilman’s obsession with a cold case – the disappearance of a young man whose mother is sure has been murdered. But along with his new skill in forensics, Digger makes rich use of the cultural knowledge he has gained from the Fire Baptist grandmother who brought him up, another kind of reader of bones. And when the enigmatic Miss K. Stanislaus, another of Chilman’s recruits, joins him on the case, Digger finds that his science is more than outmatched by her observational skills. Together, they find themselves dragged into a world of secrets, disappearances and danger that demands every ounce of their brains, persistence and courage to survive.

Jacob Ross brings the best traditions of crime fiction to the Caribbean novel with a fast-moving narrative, richly observed characters, a powerful evocation of place and a denouement that will leave readers breathless. Along the way, The Bone Readers has much to say about power, wilful amnesia and the need for truth. In Digger and Miss Stanislaus, The Bone Readers introduces characters to rival Leonardo Padura’s Cuban detective, Mario Conde, and Timothy Williams’ Anne Marie Laveaud.

Review:

So, this book was announced as the winner of the Jhalak Prize last night and soI knew it was definitely time to read it. It’s a crime fiction novel which is a genre I rarely ever touch as I’m not a huge fan of it, however, this novel is just wonderful and I’m definitely going to pay more attention to crime novels in the future!

As it’s a crime novel, I can’t say too much about the plot because that will spoil all the fun of the secrets and reveals as you read through. The characters are all fantastic and very well fleshed out and I really enjoyed the interactions between them all. The book is set on the fictional island of Camaho in the Caribbean which is based on Grenada, the author’s home. Because of this, it’s showing us a very gritty, realistic view of life on the island and doesn’t hold back from criticising certain traditions. One thing that I absolutely adored about the novel was that the characters spoke in their own language and it’s not adapted to Standard English. Although this may make it harder for some readers to understand (particularly those who do not speak English as a first language), I felt it really helped add to the immersion of the novel and I personally adore it when authors write dialogue the way it would be spoken by the characters.

I found the authors writing absolutely beautiful and I’m very excited to hear that this is the first in a planned quartet as I look forward to reading more about these characters and I really enjoyed the reveals as they worked on their case as I was kept in constant suspense and constantly surprised. This book has definitely both made me want to read more of his work, and made me want to read more crime fiction.

I would highly recommend this novel and I can definitely see why it was chosen as the very first winner of the Jhalak Prize – something which it definitely, definitely deserves. It’s so hard to put down that I read it in just two sittings (and I only stopped the first time because I had to go eat!)

 

Book Review – Augustown by Kei Miller

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I picked this up from the library from their display of quick reads because the cover was just so striking. I’d briefly heard of it before and it was on my Goodreads to-read list and so I figured I would give it a shot, knowing almost nothing about it.

The book is set in the fictional area of Augustown in Kingston, Jamaica, which is based on a real area called August Town. It follows the story of a family and the events that occur after a young boy called Kaia comes home in tears, having had his dreadlocks cut off by his teacher. His great aunt, Ma Taffy, tells him a story of the flying preacherman to calm him down while they wait for his mother to return home. His mother Gina, or Miss G, works for the headmistress of the school and has her own secrets. The story is short, but delightfully written and I really connected with all the characters.

All the characters are very well developed, and even the ones I disliked (such as the teacher) were still well rounded and interesting to read about. The book jumps between the present day and the past with Ma Taffy’s story and is a delight to read. One thing I particularly enjoyed was the use of Jamaican Patois in the novel which really helped to immerse me in the atmosphere and it was very interesting to figure out what the words meant.

I adored this book and found the writing absolutely fantastic so not only do I highly recommend it, I’m also definitely adding the authors other books to my to-read list and I hope they will be just as wonderful.