Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Seabiscuit (Laura Hillenbrand)

Hillenbrand, Laura - Seabiscuit

★★★★★★★

Title: Seabiscuit
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Genre: Non-Fiction / Biography / Horse Racing
First published: 2001
Edition: Hardback, published in 2001 by Random House

I adore this book. The writing, the story, the emotions, it’s just perfect.

Hillenbrand tells the story of a washed up racehorse and the people that transformed him into a champion so eloquently and with so much heart that you cannot but root for the horse. However, this is not just a story about a race horse, it’s a story about America in the 1930s and racetrack culture at the time. I found it endlessly fascinating.

The people surrounding Seabiscuit are who make his story so extraordinary. The enthusiastic owner, the washed up jockey and the taciturn trainer. It just makes for a fantastic story. Fiction in this case could not be better than truth.

This was my second time reading this book, having first read it shortly after it came out, and I think I loved it even more this time. The epilogue had me in absolute tears. So many feels.

If you enjoy reading about sports or horses, I would highly recommend it, as this is definitely one of my all-time favourites.

7 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: My Animals and Other Family (Clare Balding)

Balding, Clare - My Animals and Other Family

★★★★★☆☆

Title: My Animals and Other Family
Author: Clare Balding
Genre: Non-Fiction / Memoir / Autobiography
First published: 2012 by Viking
Edition: Audio book, narrated by Clare Balding

I have always admired Clare Balding, a sports presenter for British television. I know her from the racing coverage the BBC used to carry, but she has since gone on to do all sorts of events, including the Olympics and Paralympics. I have always admired her a lot. She always comes across as an intelligent,  knowledgeable and most of a genuine human being. I decided to listen to this book on Audible. It makes sense to me listen to memoirs narrated by the author and I had a lot of fun with this one.

Clare tells stories of her childhood with a lot of warmth and good humour. All the chapters are named after animals, dogs and horses, that have played a part in her life. She paints a vivid picture of growing up with a father, who is a race horse trainer, and a grandmother who thinks women are second-class citizens. Everything, from her first pony to being caught shop lifting at boarding school to becoming an amateur jockey, is told with enthusiasm and often you can almost hear her smile at the memories. There were definitely some laugh out loud moments and some sad moments and I lived them with Clare as she told me about them.

These tales of the first twenty years of her life are probably most interesting to those who know and like her, but if you like horses, you might like it regardless. If you don’t, well, maybe this one is not for you.

5 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Magnificent Seven (Graham Sharpe)

The Magnificent Seven: Seven Winners in a Day - How Frankie Dettori Achived the Impossible

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: The Magnificent Seven
Author: Graham Sharp
Genre: Non-Fiction
First published: 2001
Edition: Hardback, published by Aurum Press Ltd in 2005

‘Seven winners in a day: How Frankie Dettori achieved the impossible’

I used to be very passionate about horse racing, but in the last few years I have not paid as much attention to the sport as I would have liked. I do have a nice collection of books on horse racing, many of which I have already read, but also a few I haven’t yet. This was one of the latter and I finally decided to pick it up.

28 September 1996 was a remarkable day. Popular jockey, Frankie Dettori (one of my personal favourites), managed to win every race on the seven-race card at Ascot. This was an incredible achievement. The odds of that happening were 25,095:1 according to the back of the book. After all, the horses he rode were decent enough, but mostly not the favourites.

This books looks at the achievement itself, but also at the people who backed the horses and won big, and the bookmakers, who lost big. It’s very betting central, which is no surprise, as the author worked for William Hill at the time of writing. This can make it a little dry at times as he goes through the figures, but fascinating at the same time to see what an incredible financial impact one day had on the bookmakers and on those lucky enough to have backed Frankie’s horses.

Overall, I did enjoy the book, even if it was on the dry side at times. It was interesting to get an in-depth look into the betting industry and see how fragile their business can be when something unlikely DOES happen.

Overall, it was worth reading for me personally, but I doubt this would hold any appeal for someone without a prior interest in racing and/or betting, or maybe maths. I have read plenty of ‘horsey’ books about horse racing. This is not one of those, but it offers a fascinating insight into an infamous industry.

Finally, a note on the edition. With the dust cover, it looks cheap and badly designed. Not impressed. Without the dust cover, this is a gorgeous royal blue cloth bound book with silver lettering on the spine. Inside, each chapter starts with a quote and a silhouette of Frankie doing his famous flying dismount, which is a nice touch. At the top of the pages there is a silhouette of a race horse racing to the finishing post at the edge of the page. As you progress in the book, so the horse progresses to the line. I love it! A shame about the cover…

     Sharpe, Graham - The Magnificient Seven (detail)

4 out of 7 stars