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LONGLISTED FOR THE 2017 BAILEYS WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION
Ginger is in her forties and a recovering alcoholic when she meets and marries Paul. When it becomes clear it’s too late for her to have a baby of her own, she tries to persuade him to consider adoption, but he already has a child from a previous marriage and is ten years older than her, so doesn’t share her longing to be a parent at any cost. As a compromise, they sign up to an organisation that sends poor inner-city kids to stay with country families for a few weeks in the summer, and so one hot July day eleven year old Velveteen Vargas, a Dominican girl from one of Brooklyn’s toughest neighbourhoods, arrives in their lives, and Ginger is instantly besotted.
Bemused by her gentle middle-aged hosts, but deeply intuitive in the way of clever children, Velvet quickly senses the longing behind Ginger’s rapturous attention. While Velvet returns her affection, she finds the intensity of it bewildering. Velvet’s own passions are more excited by the stables nearby, where she discovers she has a natural talent for riding and a deep affinity with the damaged horses cared for there. But when Ginger begins to entertain fantasies of adopting her, things start to get complicated for everyone involved.
This is a heartbreakingly honest and profoundly moving portrait of the nearly unbridgeable gaps between people, and the way we long for fairytale endings despite knowing that they don’t exist.
Gaitskill's work feels more real than real life and reading her leads to a place that feels like a sacred space. Boston Globe Velvet is that most wonderful of fictional creations: a convincing child who manages to be a captivating and perceptive narrator. New Yorker Gaitskill's novel is not a children's book, but it is a book about what children long for, and how we long for the same thing many years after we've left childhood behind The New York Times Visceral and haunting, and the telling, with its shifting first person narrative, is nothing short of masterful. GQ A poignant, beautiful coming of age story about race, class and motherhood. Women and Home A thoroughly compelling read ... redemptive and moving, The Mare offers as much fresh air for the author (and the reader) as it does for her characters. Spectator Penetrating ... confronts, head-on, white privilege and black victimhood. Daily Mail A timely examination of the pains and pleasures that follow one woman's attempt to bridge the yawning gap of understanding between two races. Sunday Express Emotionally complex voices crafted with skill and sensitivity. Mail on Sunday Her voice captures a child's mixture of insight and innocence ... As a model for getting back in contact with the natural world, this is a delirious dream. As an acknowledgment of what human beings fail to offer each other, it comes closer to being a nightmare. Times A novel about race, class and, as Gaitskill's convincingly drawn characters show how different worlds collide, the seemingly unbridgeable gap between the two in America. Daily Express The Mare is a dark, dreamlike novel, at times nightmarish, at others offering glimpses of the sublime, shocking in its raw depiction of violence, and beautiful in its evocation of flawed love. Financial Times a devastatingly good novel psychologies magazine Here, without a drop of condescension, is fiction that pumps blood through the cold facts of inequality Washington Post 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 LA Times
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