Hellsmouth, an indomitable Thoroughbred with the blood of Triple Crown winners in her veins, runs for the glory of the Forge family, one of Kentucky s oldest and most powerful dynasties. Henry Forge has partnered with his daughter, Henrietta, in an endeavor of raw obsession: to breed the next superhorse, the next Secretariat.Read more...
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Hellsmouth, an indomitable Thoroughbred with the blood of Triple Crown winners in her veins, runs for the glory of the Forge family, one of Kentucky s oldest and most powerful dynasties. Henry Forge has partnered with his daughter, Henrietta, in an endeavor of raw obsession: to breed the next superhorse, the next Secretariat. But when Allmon Shaughnessy, an ambitious young black man, comes to work on their farm, the violence of the Forges history and the exigencies of appetite are brought starkly into view. Entangled in fear, prejudice, and lust, the three tether their personal dreams of glory to the speed and grace of Hellsmouth.
A spiraling tale of wealth and poverty, racism and rage, "The Sport of Kings" is an unflinching portrait of lives cast in shadow by the enduring legacy of slavery. C. E. Morgan, who received a 2016 Windham Campbell Prize for Fiction, has given life to a tale as mythic and fraught as the South itself a moral epic for our time."
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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-03-07
- Reviewer: Staff
Morgan’s enjoyable if overwritten novel about horse racing is, at heart, a story about parents and children. In 1965, Henry Forge, scion of a powerful white Kentucky dynasty, defies his tyrannical father’s wishes by turning their corn farm into a horse farm, where he hopes to turn out thoroughbred racers. Set around the year 2007, Henry’s equally headstrong daughter, Henrietta, defies her father by hiring a black ex-con named Allmon Shaughnessy to work in the stables. Raised in Cincinnati by a well-meaning single mother suffering from Lupus, Allmon drifted into petty crime at an early age. Now he is trying to make a new start at Forge Run Farm, where Henry and Henrietta have pinned all their hopes on Hellsmouth, a thoroughbred filly from an historic bloodline. Henry, having inherited his father’s belief in the inferiority of the black race, does everything possible to stop the growing attraction between Allmon and his daughter, but fate has a shocking destiny in store for them. The novel starts strong out of the gate, with Henry, Henrietta, and Allmon each getting nearly 100 pages for his or her own immersive backstory, then blows it in the backstretch with a series of melodramatic incidents that undermines the care with which Morgan (All the Living) has created these larger-than-life characters. However, fans of Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven and Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrule will appreciate the novel’s authentically pungent shed-row atmosphere, as ultimately satisfying as a mint julep on Derby Day. (May)