by Jane Smiley
Conversations with a Prince, this book is about the author's relationship with her horses. She keeps racehorses, so it's all about the workings of the racetrack too, from an inside perspective. The back end, she calls it. Smiley's fiction has been hit-or-miss with me, but I was glad to find I enjoyed reading her non-fiction. It has more focus. The book centers on a handful of racehorses she has owned, their personalities and quirks, working with and training them, overcoming problems, trying to figure them out. Plus lots of interesting thoughts on human-animal relationships, communication, how horses sense and perceive things, and so on. I was a bit surprised not only at the subtle superstitions that prevail at the racetrack, but the use Smiley made of an animal communicator who claimed to be able to hear the horses' thoughts and relay them to the owner. I had difficulty believing this, although the communicator often told things that matched exactly with the horses' circumstance and behavior, that she could not have known otherwise. But the author herself sometimes stated things that contradicted her belief in this communicator, and claimed she didn't expect the reader to believe in it either. So there's that. All in all this book was a much more accessible, personable read about racing than for example, Seabiscuit. While it's not among my favorites (some parts dragged, especially the name-dropping) I'm keeping it on my shelf for future reads.
Rating: 3/5 284 pages, 2004