14 Book Club Questions for Horse By Geraldine Brooks

Let’s be honest, sometimes book club discussions can feel a little surface-level. If you’re craving a truly rich and insightful analysis of “Horse,” then these questions are for you. 

We’re going beyond the plot and diving headfirst into the complex themes that make this novel so unforgettable. 

Get ready to dissect the symbolism, confront uncomfortable truths, and emerge with a whole new perspective on Brooks’ masterful storytelling.

Horse By Geraldine Brooks Book Club Questions

  1. Geraldine Brooks vividly portrays the harsh and dehumanizing realities of slavery in Jarret’s chapters while also highlighting the complex bonds formed between enslaved people and animals. How does the novel use Jarret’s relationship with Lexington to both deepen our understanding of the horrors of enslavement and illuminate the capacity of enslaved people to find agency and moments of joy within a system built on oppression?

  2. The novel employs three distinct narrative perspectives: the omniscient third-person narrative in Lexington and Jarret’s chapters, Thomas J. Scott’s diary entries, and the interwoven narratives of Theo and Jess in the contemporary sections. How do these various perspectives work together to create a multifaceted story? Does one offer more depth or insight than the others?

  3. The horse, and particularly Lexington, stands as a powerful symbol throughout the novel. In what ways does Lexington embody freedom, resilience, history, and exploitation? How does the novel manipulate this symbolism by placing Lexington at the center of both inspiring and devastating moments?

  4. The novel delves into how history is constructed, preserved, and sometimes lost through time. What does the novel suggest about the relationship between what we choose to remember and what we choose to forget, both on a personal and a societal level? How does this resonate when examining race in America?

  5. Art, from the paintings of Thomas J. Scott to the osteological reconstruction of Lexington’s skeleton, functions as a pivotal element in the novel. Discuss how art acts as a witness to history, serving as both tangible evidence of the past and a canvas for diverse interpretations. Additionally, how does the novel explore the ways in which art can offer healing and reconciliation?

  6. The novel raises important ethical questions surrounding horseracing, both in the past and present. How does the novel portray the tension between the thrill of the sport and the potential for exploitation and harm posed to the animals? Were there moments the novel made you reconsider your ethical stance on horseracing (if you had one)?

  7. Theo and Jess, in the contemporary sections, bring their own unique identities and experiences to the forefront of their research. How does the novel explore the ways in which race, gender, nationality, and social class affect their personal and professional lives, as well as how they approach historical investigations?

  8. The story of “Horse” ultimately becomes intertwined with themes of trauma and recovery. This is evident through the historical trauma of slavery, present-day systemic racism, and personal tragedies faced by the characters. How does the novel address these distinct types of trauma? What are the ways that the characters find resilience in the face of their challenges?

  9. Given the deliberate erasure of Black voices and stories from dominant historical narratives, how does the act of storytelling itself become a powerful form of resistance within “Horse”? Does the novel’s structure, with its multiple narratives and timelines, enhance the urgency of this resistance?

  10. Lexington’s lineage and influence are traced through generations in the novel. How does Brooks manipulate this concept of lineage to explore both positive legacies (such as equine excellence) and traumatic legacies (like the inheritance of slavery and its ongoing repercussions)?

  11. Consider the ways in which both horses and humans are subjected to concepts of “ownership” in the novel. How does Brooks play with the ideas of possession – ownership of a horse, ownership of a painting, ownership of a person – to reveal a system of power and exploitation?

  12. Brooks depicts varying levels of racial bias within ostensibly “good” characters, like Scott and Martha Jackson. Why do you think she chose this approach? What does this reveal about how racism operates even in those who might not consider themselves overtly racist?

  13. Theo’s tragic death at the hands of the police forces a brutal confrontation with the reality of modern-day racism. How does this specific event, within the broader parts of the novel, shape our understanding of how little has truly changed since the days of Jarret’s enslavement?

  14. “Horse” is a work of historical fiction. How does the fictional form allow Brooks a particular kind of freedom when addressing the very real issues of racism and its ongoing impact on American society?

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