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The Mare: A Novel Hardcover – November 3, 2015
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
One of Huffington Post's 2015 Fall 33 Can't-Miss New Reads
One of Kirkus Reviews 21 Must Read Fall Books
A Refinery29 Fall fiction Great American Novels pick
An Entertainment Weekly pick for Blockbuster Novels of Fall 2015
“The Mare is a raw, beautiful story about love and mutual delusion, in which the fierce erotics of mother love and romantic love and even horse fever are swirled together.” —Maureen Corrigan’s Best Books of 2015, NPR’s Fresh Air
“Gaitskill has not lost her gift for transforming the outside world into the particular vision of one of her characters, rich and perplexed, and The Mare ripples with internal emotional movement, but it is also a physical novel . . . the book is an exciting read. Nothing stands still, not the horses, not the violent mother or the would-be mother, not the vicious jealous friends, not the boyfriend or husband, not the sky.” —Cathleen Schine, The New York Review of Books
“[Gaitskill’s] strange gift is to unfold emotions, no matter how petty or upsetting, and describe them with disarming patience for their stutters and silences, their repetitions and contradictions. The result often feels both primal and electric, something like a latter-day D. H. Lawrence.” —Amy Gentry, Chicago Tribune
“Ms. Gaitskill is such a preternaturally gifted writer that nearly every page of The Mare shimmers with exacting and sometimes hallucinatory observation.” —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Thank goodness Gaitskill wrote this book, for it is neither Disneyfied nor dark but a beautiful coming-of-age novel about love and violence with a soupçon of redemption tossed in.” —Natalie Serber, The Portland Oregonian
“The range of Gaitskill's humanity is astonishing and matched only, it seems, by a desire to confront readers with the trembling reality of our shared ugliness . . . This is a coming-of-age story in the way we are always coming of age, whether we are 13 or 47. What elevates it is the way Gaitskill rides herd on sentimentality, which isn't to suggest that the work isn't emotional—it is. It's just that there are no false notes, no stumbles in the rare moments of tenderness. It's brave and bold to publish a book like this. Make no mistake: The women in this book, like Gaitskill herself, are mares.” —Elissa Schappell, The Lost Angeles Times
“The Mare is classic Gaitskill . . . The novel is a reimagining of Enid Bagnold's National Velvet and what makes Gaitskill such an apt writer to recast Bagnold's beloved story is their shared obsession with the psychological tangle of intimate relationships . . . In Gaitskill's hands, even the most raw and fleeting moments drip with complexity.” —Kessiah Weird, Elle Magazine
“The Mare is worth reading for the plot alone, which is as uplifting as it is gutting. But Gaitskill is more than a gifted story-teller. She is an enchanter, to borrow Nabokov’s description of what makes a good writer a major one. The particular way in which she enchants—by putting into words the wordless undercurrent of human behavior—is explicit in The Mare.” —Hannah Tennant-Moore, The New Republic
“The Mare is indebted, in its narrative strategy, to As I Lay Dying, another novel that employs a host of recurring narrators to get at the tangled intricacies of family life. There is a certain loom-like effect at work in both books, a warp-and-woof texture, visible only to the reader, produced by the interwoven sets of impressions . . . On horseback, Velvet is in her own, untouchable place, and Gaitskill’s sentences lift their necks and pick up speed to match her movements stride for stride.” —Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker
“In her last novel, Veronica, Gaitskill found a language for the inexpressible in the form of sexuality. The Mare goes further and deeper to give eloquent voice to the ineffable thoughts and feelings experienced across boundaries of age and race and class and gender—and even, in this case, species.” —Ellen Akins, The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“In soaring language that well captures being “in the zone,” whether it’s painting or riding, Gaitskill brings home her theme of the importance of honoring one’s gifts and the hard work of finding the best outlet for creative expression.” —Joanne Wilkinson, Booklist
“The major and minor voices narrating this brilliant tapestry are wondrously original, poignant and despite all, not without hope.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“Gaitskill takes a premise that could have been preachy, sentimental, or simplistic—juxtaposing urban and rural, rich and poor, young and old, brown and white—and makes it candid and emotionally complex, spare, real, and deeply affecting. She explores the complexities of love (mares, mères . . . ) to bring us a novel that gallops along like a bracing bareback ride on a powerful thoroughbred.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"[Gaitskill weaves] a rich back-and-forth narrative that encompasses falling in love, growing up, and doing right in worlds of privilege and poverty.” —The Bust Guide
About the Author
MARY GAITSKILL is the author of the story collections Bad Behavior, Because They Wanted To (nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award), and Don’t Cry, and the novels Veronica (nominated for a National Book Award) and Two Girls, Fat and Thin. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, and her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Esquire, The Best American Short Stories, and The O. Henry Prize Stories.
Top customer reviews
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While Velvet's mother is verbally and physically abusive, Ginger is also flawed. Gaitskill explores the meaning of family, addiction, and adultery through the relationship Ginger has with Velvet. Ginger can experience life in ways she could not before Velvet came into her life. As Velvet grows into a teenager and becomes more independent, Ginger is forced to look at her own life and take more responsibility for it.
Velvet has an uncanny ability to read other people and especially the horses. Through her relationship with Fugly, the mare she renames Fiery One, the cycle of her mother's abuse stops affecting her inner self. Like the mare, she is wild and scarred and beautiful and cannot be controlled. Through the lens of Velvet's relationship with Fiery One, Gaitskill explores teenage love, teenage pregnancy, sexual exploitation of minors, racial discrimination, socioeconomic discrimination, lack of self esteem, and a teenage girl's love for an abusive mother.
Gaitskill's writing is engaging. The chapters are short, named after the main characters, and written in their points of view, alternating back and forth. The novel is a page turner, and in the top two or three I've read in 2017.
the story, though predictable, is a satisfying one, in the manner of a favorite meal at a favorite restaurant -- it fills and pleases in the expected ways, drawing one along effortlessly. the character of velvet is imagined with a lovely complexity, and her emotional responses are described in striking and original fashion.
it is not great literature, but it is more than just airplane reading. the story is engaging, and it is definitely worth the read.
Other reviewers have said it better, but this book was sorely disappointing and a struggle to get through, almost like reading a completely different author than the Gaktskilll whose other works I love dearly. The only way I can reconcile this in my head (which I admit is groundless) is she consciously tried to write a book that would be more mainstream and accessible - easily achieved by centering on a story around a girl and her horse, and by avoiding the darker sexual themes that featured in her previous works. Another reviewer mentioned it has the makings of a Lifetime movie which I sadly agree with.