Sherrill Sherwood, Collections Development: Hello, I’m Sherrill Sherwood from the Haliburton County Public Library and this is Library Moments. Once a week some of us from the library will come and talk about books, upcoming events, or the services we offer at the library.
Anyone can participate in Haliburton County Public Library’s Online Book Club, by choosing to read one or more of four books selected each month.
May’s online book club theme is Horse Racing. The first two legs of horse racing’s Triple Crown takes place in May. The series opens with the Kentucky Derby a mile and a quarter race. Next is the Preakness stakes that is a mile and three sixteenths, and the final leg that is the Belmont Stakes that is a mile and a half. There hasn’t been a Triple Crown winner since the late seventies and when you take into consideration that each leg is slightly longer than the next, you can understand why it might be a difficult feat.
The four titles chosen for May are; Northern Dancer by Kevin Chong, Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon, Jump by Jilly Cooper and Silks by Dick Francis. Bessie Sullivan, Erin Kernohan-Berning and I will each talk about one of the titles.
Bessie Sullivan, County Librarian: In Jump by Jilly Cooper Etta Bancroft is a sweet, kind, still beautiful woman who adores horse racing. When her bullying husband dies, Etta’s selfish, ambitious children drag her from her lovely Dorset home to live in a hideous modern bungalow in the Cotswold village of Willowwood and act as an unpaid nanny for their poorly behaved children. Etta’s life changes when, in the snow in a nearby woods, she finds a horribly mutilated filly, which she names Mrs Wilkinson and nurses back to health. The filly charms everyone in the village, then tests reveal her to be a spectacularly well-bred racehorse. After a nail-biting court case, she is awarded to Etta. A village syndicate is formed to put the filly into training, consisting of a riotous mix of local characters, who set off to the races in a minibus clanking with bottles. Etta makes wonderful friends through the syndicate and the book is fun and moves along at an enjoyable clip.
Erin Kernohan-Berning, Branch Services Librarian: In “the sport of kings” Northern Dancer remains a legend, with 70% of thoroughbreds today able to trace their lineage back to the famous Canadian racehorse who won the 1964 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, as well as Canada’s Queens Plate. In Northern Dancer: The Legendary Horse that Inspired a Nation, author Kevin Chong not only details this 1964 campaign that took the world by storm, but the lives of those who Northern Dancer touched. E.P Taylor, the horse breeder and business tycoon who’s dealings in high profile companies put him on the receiving end of almost every Canadian transaction from food to farm equipment; Horatio Lugo, the horse trainer who was well known for his tender treatment of horses, and even better known for his wooing of Hollywood starlets; and Bill Hartack, the jockey who rode Northern Dancer to victory in two out of the three Triple Crown races in 1964, but whose unvarnished and outspoken manner led him to many a dust up between he and trainers, race officials, and the press. Chong then picks up 50 years later, with the Canadian horse racing industry in turmoil, and in more need of a national hero than ever.
Sherrill: At the center of Lord of Misrule is Tommy Hansel, a horse trainer with a get-rich-quick scheme that he feels cannot fail. He plans to enter “sure-fire” winners in claiming races, benefit from the long odds, then get out of town quickly. Nothing, of course, goes according to plan, especially since everyone seems on to his scheme, and the horses aren’t as cooperative as Tommy would like them to be. Complicating the issue is the quirky, intelligent Maggie, new to the horse-race business but nonetheless Tommy’s love. Maggie is drawn to the seamy underbelly of the track and the broken-down beauty of the horses. When most of us think of horse racing, we conjure up a vision of the Kentucky Derby or perhaps, Churchill Downs, attended by jewel-studded rich folk dressed up in their finery with cash to burn.
But at the rock-bottom end of the sport, horse racing is a whole other world – a world inhabited by down-on-their-luck trainers and jockeys, loan sharks and crooks. This is the world Jaimy Gordon takes us into – Indian Mound Downs, where the horses are mostly aging, drugged, or lame and the trainers are as crooked and cynical as they come. Lord of Misrule was the 2010 National Book Award Winner, Fiction.
To join the Online Book Club, visit our website at www.haliburtonlibrary.ca and follow the book club resources link. Thanks for listening here on 100.9 Canoe FM.
*Originally aired on 100.9 CANOE FM, May 25-31, 2014.