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The Sport of Kings

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  3,217 ratings  ·  661 reviews
Hellsmouth, an indomitable thoroughbred with the blood of Triple Crown winners in her veins, runs for the glory of the Forge family, one of Kentucky’s oldest and most powerful dynasties. Henry Forge has partnered with his daughter, Henrietta, in an endeavor of raw obsession: to breed the next superhorse, the next Secretariat. But when Allmon Shaughnessy, an ambitious young ...more
Hardcover, 560 pages
Published May 3rd 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published May 1st 2016)
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This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Kenneth R. McKune The unnamed man in the epilogue is certainly Allmon Shaughnessy. As Allmon had told Henrietta, after their lovemaking and in response to her question …moreThe unnamed man in the epilogue is certainly Allmon Shaughnessy. As Allmon had told Henrietta, after their lovemaking and in response to her question about his happiest vision, it was the river - and across it, his mother was still alive, waiting for him. This turned out to be the ending at the epilogue.

But in the final chapter, Allmon had left nothing to chance when he aimed his pistol at himself, after shooting four rounds deliberately missing Henry Forge - and subsequently, Forge saw a dead man lying there, arms outstretched, which could only have been Allmon.

I found it evocative that in the epilogue, Allmon spoke only five words: the river, stop, stop, yes.

The rest of the epilogue is taken up by the driver, who after some length delivers Allmon to the river. The driver's first impression of Allmon is that he almost a ghost, stern, chilling, silent. Only by his shape, color, and burned smell do we know it is Allmon, or his spirit.
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Dane Volodine TENNISTRAINER SHOP ist nicht einfach nur ein Tennis Shop, sondern soll auch Inspiration für alle Tennisfans sein.Damit unsere Kunden jederzeit und übe…moreTENNISTRAINER SHOP ist nicht einfach nur ein Tennis Shop, sondern soll auch Inspiration für alle Tennisfans sein.Damit unsere Kunden jederzeit und überall bequem einkaufen können, haben wir unsere Smartphone- und Tablet-Seiten einfach und intuitiv gestaltet. https://tennistrainer.shop/
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Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.



Henry Forge - proud, racist, and uncompromising - nurtures a lifelong obsession to breed the next Thoroughbred superhorse, a desire that his only child, Henrietta, adopts with the same degree of all-consuming fervor. Allmon Shaughnessy, a young black man adept at working with horses, arrives at the Forge farm. His appetite for success aligns with that of the Forge family, and the three are inextricably d
...more
Maureen
Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
First off, I need to say that this is possibly THE most beautifully written book that I've had the pleasure to read. Powerful - Inspiring - and Moving words, and yet, these words also create vivid images of rape, slavery, and cruelty, that I found particularly hard to stomach. Of course these scenes and words were crucial to the overall picture, but you know what they say ' once read they cannot be unread'
The wealthy Forge family are one of the oldest families in Kentucky, descended from the fi
...more
Jaline
No-one and nothing emerges unscathed in this book. Regardless of race or region, whether plant, animal, mineral – even the earth itself – all are capable of, and do enact cruelty upon other members of their species or other species or those in contact with other species. In that sense, this book was almost nihilistic in tone. Just when redemption appeared to be at hand, it was ripped away with the force of a wild wind.

It begins as a family saga in Kentucky when Kentucky was still Virginia then s
...more
Philip
3ish stars.

Allow me to compare this novel to a horse. It's large, majestic, impressive, stately. Many times, however, it more closely resembles a Clydesdale than the Forge's racing thoroughbreds- powerful but less sleek than clunky and plodding. I had this rated as high as a 4 at some points and as low as a 2 at others, which speaks to its inconsistency, mostly in pace. There were times I was so engaged and impressed with Morgan's writing skill, while other times I felt like I was slogging thro
...more
Emma
Feb 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the opening scene, we meet young Henry on the run from his father for the crime of killing the neighbour’s bull. His strident denials, churlishness to a black servant, and childish whining did not initially endear me to him, or the book. Then we meet his father, an overbearing man whose impossibly high expectations of his son were unlikely to be met, for he seemed like the sort who would never be satisfied. Suddenly, the boy’s behaviour became a little more understandable, though never likeab ...more
Simon
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, my thoughts. Firstly I was, because of the horses and the racing, pretty sure I would hate this book. So imagine my surprise when within 50 pages I was sold, gripped in the dynastic tale of the Forge family who are all frankly horrid and bonkers but oh so read able. The book then takes a huge twist into the life of Allmon and soon starts to look at class and race in America from the 1960's onwards. This book is jam packed. There is a but coming. I can't decide if Morgan does something clever ...more
Hugh
This is an impressively wide-ranging novel that is almost a social history of Kentucky, as well as an examination of the racing industry and the science behind the evolution and breeding of thoroughbred horses. It centres on two families, one white and one black, and builds to a conclusion that has elements of Greek tragedy. I have no interest in horses, but never found that a problem.

At its heart is Henry Forge, whose family farm was founded by an ancestor who was one of the state's original se
...more
Rebecca
Rumors of Great American Novel status abounded, but I found this Kentucky-based horse racing novel to be florid and overlong. The novel doesn’t really achieve takeoff until Allmon comes on the scene at about page 180. Although there are good descriptions of horses, the main plot – training Hellsmouth to compete in the 2006 Kentucky Derby – mostly passed me by. Meanwhile, the interpersonal relationships become surprisingly melodramatic, more fit for a late Victorian novel or maybe something by Fa ...more
Rincey
Mar 22, 2017 marked it as dnf
It's never too late to DNF a book. ...more
Trudie
Dec 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2017
Finally, coming up for air after 2 weeks with this novel, an ambitious multigenerational epic, hampered by indulgent digressions.
Lets deal with the horses, yep, there are large chunks of writing about matters equine - breeding, racing, frolicking, and evolution but this is not a horse racing novel like, say Seabiscuit: An American Legend, but rather a confronting story of race and certainly privilege. Hellsmouth, the key horse character of the book, really doesn't feature heavily until the last
...more
RoseMary Achey
Although I enjoyed the writing style, the subject and characters were tedious and difficult to engage. A family saga concerned with a family that has few redeeming qualities. Every time I picked up this book, I wished for it to end, certainly not a glowing recommendation.
Melissa Crytzer Fry
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
**I would give this book 10 stars if I could. **

[UPDATE (7/10): While prepping discussion questions for book club, I realized that I missed something KEY in this book -- a "holy cow, my mind is blown" kind of discovery that makes me feel this book is even MORE brilliant than my initial thoughts below. But you have to read closely, with focus, to catch it. Amazing, amazing, amazing!!]

ORIGINAL REVIEW:
What I’ve come to learn about myself as a reader is that I am patient enough (who knew?) to enjoy
...more
Amanda
Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audible
4.5 stars. The best book I've read this month. This was so close to 5 stars but that epilogue hmmm.

This is thankfully not a book about horse racing despite the title. It is a sweeping epic family story and a reckoning with the history of slavery in US. The horses are beautiful but they are just the backdrop. I will be carrying these characters around with me for a long time.
...more
Elaine
Mar 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
This book was an overwritten mess, which is a shame, because there were flashes of brilliance and some heartpoundingly page-turning passages. I get that this is Southern Gothic, and that the footsteps being followed are Faulkner's, but I was frustrated by the excess long before I reached the turgid melodramatic ending.

An early warning sign was the recurrence of esoteric vocabulary words. The first time I saw "karsty" (which may be an adjective that Morgan coined, I'm not sure), I had to read up
...more
Roger Brunyate
Bloodstock: Overbred, Overwritten

C. E. Morgan can do some things supremely well. There is a scene about a quarter of the way through her new novel, set mainly on a Kentucky horse farm, where a stud stallion is brought in to cover a brood mare. The bringing together of two highly-strung animals, attracted by scent, and as likely to attack their handlers as each other, is a scene of gross violence made almost magnificent by the wildness of the writing in which Morgan describes it:
The enormous b
...more
jo
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book is supposedly only 500 something pages, but it took me more than three weeks to get through the audiobook. phew. i am so very happy i did, except for (view spoiler).

it's not many women writers who take it upon themselves to write such sprawling, male histories of the country, or, as they are called if men write them, Great American Novels, so major props to morgan for courage and vision.

also, it's not many white
...more
Kath
May 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is offensive. I can only hope the reader will read past his or her objections. It is offensive to blacks, to monied whites, to animal rights activists, to horse-racing enthusiasts, to atheists, to Christians, to hillbillies and a combination of any or all of the above. I loved every minute of it. This book gets in your face and into your brain. Morgan takes Homeric and idyllic pastoral scenes to an entirely new level in the modern novel. The writing is lush, but accurate to every detai ...more
Maria Hill AKA MH Books
This book has split me in two.

I love it: Its is a 4.5 star.
Look there is some beautiful writing here. For example there is a stunning scene where one of the female protagonists has sex with a stranger in the back seat of a car during a rain storm. The two family sagas are intriguing too with an interesting twist or two at the end.

I hate it. It should be a DNF and does not even deserve a single star.
Unfortunately, at there is at least two hundred pages of complete self- indulgent, convoluted,
...more
Mike
Mar 22, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Got about a hundred pages into this and just couldn't take any more of the grim, dour characters. Even the livelier ones are soured somehow.
The writing is good, though perhaps there's just too much of a good thing with it at times, as though the author finds a wondrous turn of phrase and can't bear not to add it to the other similar phrases, and the characters are well drawn enough. But everyone's so gloomy.
Just not interested in spending any more of my precious reading time with them all.
...more
Krista
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
All roads have led to you, Henry, and I won't have you throw everything away for a heap of rhinestones. I'm a planter's son, and you're a planter's son. There is no need for improvement, Henry, only adherence to a line that has never altered, because it's never proven unsound.

The Sport of Kings is a tough book to get my mind around: It is big and weighty, so interesting at the sentence level and ambitious in scope – Is there ever anything more topical in America than class and race and the c
...more
Erica
Read because: 2017 finalist for Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction

This story is…
....masterfully written.
....going to piss a lot of people off.
….a book that white people go nuts over, hailing it as literary genius as it deftly and sometimes graphically shows all the horrible things white privilege does to both white people and black. Feel sorry for us white folk, trying so hard to get woke with little to no success.
….not going to escape the criticisms heaped upon The Help and The Secret Life of B
...more
Ms.pegasus
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: N.Y. Times recommended book
Shelves: fiction, history
Morgan's novel is set in the Ohio-Kentucky borderland bisected by the Ohio River. To the north lies Cincinnati, a free-state beacon in antebellum times. To the south lies the rich farmland of Kentucky, a de facto slave state. Metaphor has glossed over so much of this area's complicated history. Cincinnati was the Queen City, surrounded like Rome, by seven hills. Kentucky is the blue grass state, an appellation that distances it from reminders of slave labor's importance in its history. As for th ...more
Jessica Sullivan
This powerful, epic work of macro fiction has all the makings of a classic novel. I’ll be honest: at first I could barely muster the interest to start reading it. A 550-page book about horse racing? Nah, not for me. But The Sport of Kings is so much more than it appears to be: beneath the surface, it’s a sweeping examination of racism and classism in America.

At the center of this ambitious novel is the Forge family, one of Kentucky’s oldest and most powerful dynasties. As a young boy in the midd
...more
Mike W
May 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the novel’s opening scene, a young Henry Forge, guilty of killing a neighbor’s bull, breathlessly sprints through a cornfield in an attempt to hide from his father and avoid the coming reckoning. I couldn’t help but think of Genesis and Adam, the first to try the same for having committed the original sin. In some sense, the scene is a microcosm of the novel; the book portending a reckoning for America’s original sin of slavery.

Henry Forge has a name. His father, the latest in a long line of
...more
Jonathan Pool
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-lit
If you are white, and male, the Sport of Kings makes for uncomfortable reading at times. C.E Morgan has written a novel in which women and black people are subject to the worst humiliations and injustices.
Of men: ”The truth is that men aren't interested in your happiness; they'll make you think that's the case, they'll treat you really great for a while and make all sorts of promises and give you all their attention, but they reach a point where they can't pretend anymore. They're just selfish
...more
Alice Lippart
Enjoyed this very much. Fascinating characters, even though they're often horrendous. ...more
Gumble's Yard
Henry Forge is heir to a Kentucky farm, descended from the first settlers in the area, and son of a beautiful but mute mother and a fiercely proud, patrician and fundamentally racist and sexist father who disinherits him (unsuccessfully) when Henry declares his intention to convert the farm from crops to racehorses.

Most of the book of the book is set years later as Henry and his unmarried daughter Henrietta pursue Henry’s dream of breeding a triple-crown winning racehorse from the bloodline of
...more
Jeanette
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Some parts of this book were superb and nearly all of those most poetic/ lyrical were in regards to the animal, the thoroughbred horse. It follows a specific section of the country in Kentucky settled by the Forge family and the century plus that follows. Hard people who with Henry's dictation change the corn and other crop onus of the Forge land to that of raising/ developing genetic horse lines used in the sport of thoroughbred racing. The Sport of Kings. Obsessed to obtain and all sacrifices ...more
Chris Blocker
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An impressive epic, The Sport of Kings runs strong. Despite focusing on horse racing and farming of the last century, Morgan's second novel is extremely relevant for today's tumultuous American landscape. With gorgeous prose, realistic characters, and a story that never stays stagnant for long, Morgan has crafted a winning novel, entertaining and intelligent.

I'm not one for horse racing. I don't even like horses—I've always found them to be frighteningly alien in appearance. But when this novel
...more
Jaclyn Crupi
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I delayed reading this book for the longest time primarily because of the horse racing. This book isn't about horse racing of course but it does contain a lot (read too much) about horses and horse racing. It's about rage and 'spoiled inbred racist motherfuckers'. I admired so much about this book and its epic sprawling storytelling. Morgan's ability to examine racism, ambition, privilege, the legacies of slavery, the role and treatment of women and the mythology of the South while rendering a p ...more
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C.E. Morgan (b. 1976) is an American author. She won the 2016 Windham–Campbell Literature Prize, among other honors.

As an undergraduate, Morgan studied voice at Berea College, a tuition-free labor college for students from poor and working-class backgrounds in Appalachia. In exchange for a free education, all students work for the college while enrolled. Morgan also attended Harvard Divinity Schoo
...more

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