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The Sport of Kings: A Novel Hardcover – May 3, 2016
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An Amazon Best Book of May 2016: The Sport of Kings is American and epic, a novel of lineage and legacy, race horses and racism, power and poverty. It’s graceful, provocative and at the right stretches, heart-pounding. Weaving together different centuries and narratives, C.E. Morgan exposes the soft and hardened edges of humanity with crushing clarity. The Forge family is Kentucky royalty: their land and wealth has been handed down for generations and Henrietta, the daughter of Henry Forge, stands to inherit it all. With his daughter by his side, Henry sets out to breed and race the fastest horse in history. In a neighboring town, Allmon Shaughnessy, an African American boy, comes of age in a world seeped in discrimination and violence. Years later, Allmon arrives at the Forge farm determined to remake his own story. It’s there that his fate will become forever entwined with the Forge’s, as Henry, Henrietta and Allmon, each stake their future in Hellsmouth, a filly bred from champions that could win it all. Fueled by beauty and rage, lust and violence, The Sport of Kings concludes with an ending that is as adrenaline fueled as Hellsmouth’s last turn at the Kentucky Derby. C.E. Morgan’s novel is a magnificent achievement, one that grapples with the weight of the past and the near universal desire to make your own destiny. --Al Woodworth
New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2016
NPR Best Books of 2016
“Remarkable achievements . . . The Sport of Kings hovers between fiction, history, and myth, its characters sometimes like the ancient ones bound to their tales by fate, its horses distant kin to those who drew the chariot of time across the sky . . . Novelists can do things that other writers can’t―and Morgan can do things that other novelists can’t . . . Tremendous, the work of a writer just starting to show us what she can do.” ―Kathryn Shultz, The New Yorker
"Ravishing and ambitious . . . It’s a mud-flecked epic, replete with fertile symbolism, that hurtles through generations of Kentucky history . . . [Morgan is]an interior writer, with deep verbal and intellectual resources. . . Ms. Morgan bears down incisively on topics ― the lust for speed and power and domination, the prison experience of black men, male camaraderie, the bonds between fathers and sons, the brute intricacies of the dirty Southern soul ― that men have tended to claim . . . [A] serious and important novel.”―Dwight Garner, The New York Times
“Morgan’s storytelling abilities match her deep characterization ― part of which is that she’s a writer of real virtuosity, and the narrative includes some of her set-piece 'lessons,' mock interviews, synthetic parables, and a retelling of the Eden myth in the style of Uncle Remus . . . Her concerns are Faulknerian in scope.” ― Madison Smartt Bell, The Boston Globe
“One literary stereotype associates long, sprawling, ambitious novels with male writers . . . In this century, however, the finest 'major' novels have more often than not been written by women. Zadie Smith, Donna Tartt, Eleanor Catton, Meg Wolitzer and Elena Ferrante are among those hitting the long balls in contemporary fiction, and with The Sport of Kings, a world-encompassing colossus second novel, C. E. Morgan has joined their ranks . . . Morgan is a virtuoso stylist, easily rendering the kinetics of horseracing, then plunging beneath the surface to illuminate the mysteries of genetic science. There will not be a novel with a larger and more dazzlingly deployed vocabulary published this year.” ―Michael LaPointe, The Times Literary Supplement
“Majestic and sorrowful . . . With this extraordinary work, C. E. Morgan moves into the front rank of contemporary writers.” ―Wendy Smith, Newsday
“Vivid epic of rage and racism on a Kentucky stud farm exposes the myth of the American dream.” ―The Spectator (UK)
"Spirited, fast and almost perfectly formed.” ―The Times (London)
“With The Sport of Kings, C. E. Morgan has delivered a masterpiece. Rich, deep, and ambitious, this book is, by any standard, a Great American Novel.” ―Philipp Meyer, author of The Son
“[The Sport of Kings] is an epic novel steeped in American history and geography . . . Morgan’s gothic tale of Southern decadence deepens into a searing investigation of racism’s enduring legacy . . . Vaultingly ambitious, thrillingly well-written, charged with moral fervor and rueful compassion. How will this dazzling writer astonish us next time?” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Morgan has dared to write the kind of book that was presumed long extinct: a high literary epic of America.” ―Duncan White, The Telegraph (UK)
“[A] gorgeously textured novel ... Henrietta, possibly the most intellectually resplendent heroine I’ve met in a novel . . . C. E. Morgan has more nerve, linguistic vitality and commitment to cosmic thoroughness in one join of her little finger than the next hundred contemporary novelists have in their entire bodies and vocabularies . . . Nothing short of genius.” ―Jaimy Gordon, The New York Times Book Review
“Sport of Kings boasts a plot that maintains tension and pace, and Morgan weaves its characters, its themes, its several histories together in a marvelous display of literary control and follow-through.” ―Katherine A. Powers, Christian Science Monitor
“[A] rich and compulsive new novel . . . This book confirms [Morgan] as the new torchbearer of the Southern Gothic tradition . . . What emerges is a panoramic view of race relations in America, from the slow crumbling of the Jim Crow laws until shortly before the election of Barack Obama, with occasional glimpses into the more distant past. Racing provides the novel’s overarching metaphor for race (a set of tracks that determine the course of a life, and for which the correct breeding is essential), and Morgan’s white characters are hardly less constricted by history than her black ones. . . It’s a bleak and bitter inversion of the American dream ― a world in which circumstances are impossible to change, and legacies impossible to shake.” ―Edmund Gordon, The Financial Times
“A torchbearer for the new southern Gothic tradition.” ―Financial Times
“The splendor and barbarism of horse racing and the legacy of slavery are just two of the threads in this sprawling, magisterial Southern Gothic for the 21st century.” ―O, The Oprah Magazine
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Top Customer Reviews
Although it's 600 pages, I could read another 600 of them just for how delectable the language and characterization can be.
I have to give credit to the New Yorker for such an electric book review, which compelled me to pick this up.
The wealthy Forge family are one of the oldest families in Kentucky, descended from the first settlers to travel the harsh Wilderness Road. Henry Forge decides to break with the family tradition of crop farming in favour of horse racing and breeding, but don't let that put you off ( I have no knowledge of or interest in either ) and though paramount to the story, there is SO much more to this book. At around 600 pages, it's a long read, but it's such a rich all enveloping saga that reveals the complete circle of life in all it's sordid glory. I deliberately haven't given much of the storyline away as I think it's begging to be read. C E Morgan has written something of a masterpiece here, that I believe would transfer wonderfully to the big screen. It deserves an audience!
*Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Collins UK, 4th Estate for my ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review*