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A Fine Place to Daydream: Racehorses, Romance, and the Irish [Kindle Edition]

Bill Barich
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Twenty-five years after Laughing in the Hills, his racetrack classic, Bill Barich tells the story of how he fell in love and found a new life in Dublin, where he was soon caught up in the Irish obsession with horses and luck. Barich travels his adopted country and meets the leading trainers and jockeys; the beleaguered bookies who work rain or shine; and a host of passionate, like-minded fans—from Father Sean Breen, the “Racing Priest,” to T. P. Reilly, whose peculiar betting system turns on a horse’s looks.

Witty, philosophical, and vividly written, A Fine Place to Daydream is a paean to the real Ireland, a moving tale of a surprise romance, and a thrilling account of a hugely exciting season at the track.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Barich, a former New Yorker writer, moves to Dublin after falling in love with an Irish woman, but shortly after his arrival he develops an (arguably) even stronger passion for gambling on Irish horse races. This obsession is an extension of his longstanding infatuation with the racetrack (which was the basis for his 1980 classic, Laughing at the Hills). But the steeplechase popular throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom is an entirely different type of race, where a horse's jumping skills matter as much as speed. Barich follows a steeplechase season from October to March, culminating in a weeklong series of races at Cheltenham, England, and consults as many horse trainers, jockeys, bookies and fellow fans as he can find to get the inside dope on how he should place his bets. His narrative is simple but elegant, and his language is erudite without being pretentious. (When he slips in an allusion to Ulysses, for example, it's so casual that it won't stop readers who don't catch it.) The book's setting may be exotic to American readers, but the sheer joy of being a sports fan will be familiar to many. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* The topics that bring out the best in Barich, which is very good indeed, are fishing, horse racing, and travel. In his latest offering, readers will get a satisfying helping of the latter two. Barich, formerly of northern California, moved to Ireland a couple of years ago in the (successful) pursuit of a lady, only to fall in love with her country and her country's racing as well. We're talking about racing "over the jumps"--chasers and hurdlers--and it is quite different from the "flat" racing Barich was used to. It takes him a couple of months to get up to speed, but he is soon following the long winter season as avidly as any native son of the old sod. Everything points to the April festival at Cheltenham and the climactic Cheltenham Gold Cup. Barich travels throughout Ireland and northern England to watch the major contenders and talk to their owners, trainers, and riders, always in search of the key insight that will produce a memorable payday--and the accompanying bragging rights--on Gold Cup Day. Alas, that windfall never materializes, but readers are rewarded on every page. With Barich as an ever-amiable companion, the Irish winter passes so pleasantly that one hardly notices how much has been absorbed about the country, its people, and its favorite sport. Dennis Dodge
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 467 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (December 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000SEH6V4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,396,212 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Barich's Gold Cup Bid March 31, 2006
When I moved to San Francisco, my father told me to make sure to look up the author Bill Barich, who lived nearby here and whose early books my father admired. One was called LAUGHING IN THE HILLS. I would see Barich at different literary events and went to several readings by him. He was always a laughing, jolly sort of person. But lately I haven't seem him around town, and I had just about forgotten his existence, when a friend popped his new book to me in the mail, knowing of my love of horses and Irish ancestry. As it turns out, Barich fell in love with a woman from Ireland, and moved there to be with her. I didn't even know, but why would I?

His new book picks up with his life in Dublin, a peripatetic life because even though he is besotted with Imelda, he ignores her often to go hunting down horseflesh. The trotters of US race courses are very unlike the jumpers prized in Ireland, and for Barich it's a whole new ballgame. He is older now, on the brink between middle age and being a senior citizen, so some of his moves have a frantic, late Yeats quality to them. As though he knows this will be his last hurrah.

The writing isn't as daisy fresh as in the early books my late father so loved, but as always, he knows how to inject fun into his travel narrative. On St Patrick's Day he gets caught in a saturnalia of drunk racegoers, including a "pair of short chubby guys in leprechaun costumes who were hamming it up for the crowd, their faces painted green and their bloodshot eyes brimful of booze. I was in the midst of a Lorca rhapsody, caught in a swirl of green shirts and ties, green scarves and socks, green dresses and beer, and probably green underwear.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've long touted Bill Barich's LAUGHING IN THE HILLS, named by Amazon as one of the best sports books of the last century, and now after many years here finally is a satisfactory sequel. Barich follows his soulmate back to Ireland, where he also falls in love with the pastoral steeplechase and horses over hurdles on the green:

"I took to it so readily that the flat races began to bore me. Devoted to speed, they were over in a flash, while a good chase unfolded as leisurely as a Hardy novel. The jump races were rich in subplots and dramatic reversals of fate, too, plus they have a pastoral aspect that was transcendent, and entirely beautiful."

Literate, lyrical, and a tonic for the mind. Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Living MY Daydream! July 18, 2006
I picked this book up entirely by accident at the public library. Never having heard of Bill Barich, I had no idea what a fine writer he was but the subject matter is one I had long fantasized about: going to Ireland to follow the races.

For an American who's only knowledge of horse-racing is watching the Triple Crown on TV, racing in Europe (especially the UK & Ireland) is an entirely different (& much kinder) sport. The races are run on natural terrain & not necessarily on an oval track. There is no 2 year old racing (a 2 year old Thoroughbred is the equivalent of a 12 year old human). The fact that horses generally don't start racing until they're fully mature at 4, and the natural turf of the courses is reflected in the much longer careers of European horses; 8 & 9 year old champions are common. Races are run both on flat & over fences, and are a much better length than US racing, where 1 1/2 miles is a rarity. In Europe, 3 miles is pretty standard, & 4 miles is not unheard of. Taken all together, European racing is not only better for the horse, but more interesting and varied for the spectator ('punters' in turf lingo).

So Bill Barich, recently transplanted to Dublin finds himself in a world very different than US racing. It's a world where there are betting shops on every corner, and one of the biggest bookmakers runs ads on TV (odds on an old lady crossing a busy street? 7-1!). It's a world in which he can visit the training facilities of top trainers to have a jaw with them about their training methods, & have a chat with the top jockeys over a cup of tea in the family house. It's a world where a local track has a 4 day meeting & the school in town let's its' students out to attend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Finding Love in a Foreign Land November 18, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If Bill Barich's masterpiece, Laughing in the Hills, is a book about the nature of chance and coping with loss, his newer book "A Fine Place to Daydream: Romance, Racehorses, and the Irish" is about newfound love.

Barich's tale of love is told via the story of his infatuation for steeplechase horseracing. The result is a finely woven tale about romantic love, the process of falling in love, the mystery of how we come to love that which we love, and the places in which we find ourselves falling in love.

In "A Fine Place to Daydream", Barich's infatuation for Irish Steeplechase horseracing is as unexpected and refreshing as his love for Imelda, his new Irish girlfriend, who across the course of the book becomes much more. Barich met Imelda at an art gallery show in London. Their love affair did not begin well. Imelda snubbed Barich's first advance on her, but Barich resolved (motivated by some mysterious urge) to persist, to win the heart of this stranger who lived in a different country, who he didn't even know. Imelda warmed to the advancing Barich.

Barich's successful courtship, and new relationship, leads Barich to Dublin to live with Imelda, despite his original plans to move to and retire in the quiet simplicity of the Sierra Nevada's. Love operates against even the "best laid plans" of man. It is in conjunction with this new, exhilarating discovery of romance in a foreign land, filled with exuberance and gratefulness, that Barich pursues another passion- steeplechase horseracing.

In "A Fine Place" Barich is not the soul searcher that he is in "Laughing in the Hills." He is a lightly-trotting rover, who has let his defenses down and pried his eyes open.
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