The Horse Whisperer – Nicholas Evans – 4/10

“Sometimes what seems like surrender isn’t surrender at all. It’s about what’s going on in our hearts.”

Grace and Judith take their horses out on a snowy New York morning. A collision with a sleep-deprived trucker leaves one pair dead and a girl and horse fighting for their lives. Annie becomes convinced that her daughter’s fate is inextricably linked with the fate of her horse, and tracks down a horse whisperer to heal the crippled equine.  Soon it’s not just the girl and the horse whose futures are linked…

Yes I know this is chick lit of the greatest degree – ponies, cowboys, “the massive Montana sky”… Skipping right along:

It is very obvious after about page 100 that it is Annie with whom we are supposed to sympathise – this is Annie’s story, not Grace’s. Grace becomes a truculent, wilful child who is irritating to her mother – instead of the scarred survivor we should see. Annie – well I have no patience with characters who commit adultery, so… I was never going to like her. Evans does convey a very credible character though – she is stressed, trying to do a good job (eventually, just trying to keep her job), doesn’t understand why her child is resisting her helpful efforts, feels guilty for not being around more… I didn’t really understand her relationship with Robert (Grace’s dad) – there is an explanation of how they have got to where they are, but he seemed to just fade out of the picture once Annie and Grace went to Montana.

I quite enjoyed Tom’s back-story and his reticence with actual humans, but could I shake the idea that his name was Robert Redford (I saw the film maybe 8 years ago?)? No. As a reviewer on Bookmooch pointed out, this book was written for film – there’s pathetic fallacy and dark foreboding everywhere.

As for plot… the accident and the recovery are really a shell into which to tuck Annie and Tom’s romance and Annie’s reawakening as a country girl (or some sort of pretence thereat). And I don’t get on brilliantly with this romance business, so to me it was all just a lot of talking and stuff.

Maybe 4/10 is a bit harsh – it achieves what it sets out to do. I just don’t feel emotionally invested in any of the characters, like I did in Love Verb, intrigued by the interpersonal drama like I did in Touching Distance, or blown away by language and situation like in Bel Canto.

Additional info:
This was a personal copy from a big box purchase.
Publisher: Corgi, paperback, 479 pages.
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