Title: The Sport of Kings
Author: C.E. Morgan
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: NetGalley Ebook
The Sport of Kings is an immense novel. It traverses America throughout its recent history and into the modern day, revolving around on family but exploring the lives of other people. Its driving force are the horses – Henry Forge’s aspiration to make a name for himself in the world of horse races (The Sport of Kings, the books title is referring to), but it goes much deeper than that, exploring difficult themes such as racism, rape and incest. Evolution also gets more than a passing glance as Henry strives to breed the perfect race-horse.
The main plot of this book is both frustrating and fascinating. It’s fascinating because of the rich world it conjures up yet frustrating because of the characters and darker themes. It also doesn’t actually take up much of the book. There is a lot of extra detail in many forms, such as interludes, diaries, thoughts, which I felt slowed the book down a bit. However, part of me thinks those sections are needed in order to prevent the reader from getting too bogged down in the darker themes of the book.
A book with as many themes and concepts as this cannot tread lightly where the characters are concerned, and the characters in The Sport of Kings certainly live up to the weight cast down upon them. Henry Forge plays the central figure – the book follows him throughout his life, but also explores the lives of all those he as affected from his daughter to the stable hand to the chef. No character in this book is perfect, indeed all of them appear broken in some way, and Morgan does not shy away from making their lives as difficult and heart-breaking as possible. It is their individual story-lines and troubles which I found the most interesting part of this read and the part which kept drawing me in again and again.
This book is set deep in the heart of South America. It’s centrally based in Forge Run Farm, but reaches out to the cities and races to provide an intricate picture of the world. I don’t know much about horse-racing, but according to some other reviews there are a couple of errors relating to that in this book, as a word of warning to those who are interested in it out there. That being said, it does feel very well research and a couple of errors in a 600 page book of this depth isn’t bad.
This is a captivating read with writing that is both lyrical and profound. It is, at its centre, a truly American novel, but the themes could translate anywhere. It is, however, a book which cannot be read when you cannot provide it with your full attention – the lyrical writing style makes for difficult, focused reading and the interlude can leave the track altogether, delving into history and evolution. Despite this, I found myself being drawn into the book every time I read it, especially when author focused on the principle characters and their personal battles. The Sport of Kings is well worth the read, and it will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.