Chapter by Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
Usually when I do one of these articles I do the intro before I actually read the chapter, to see what I recalled in the two weeks since the last installment. Because I was unsure of how it would go, since the chapters appear to be short, I decided to do the reading first. When I finished the first chapter there appeared to be enough to warrant an opinion. Not on the whole book, just the first chapter. So how well did this start?
Chapter 1: Ghost
The first chapter introduces who I’m betting is the villain of the piece, based on the last two paragraphs, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Captain Philippe de Pluminel, the owner of the horse named Ghost (where I’m betting the title of this novel comes from) isn’t so much a horse trainer as he is a dance instructor for his horse. He wanted the audience in Sweden to applaud Ghost’s performance rather than himself, a former member of the French Calvary School. I don’t know what that is (beyond possible context) but the ringmaster makes it sound important. He’s put off by the audience not treating Ghost’s performance (done without a rider, which is rare for horse shows I guess) as art, with the exception of a small group of kids. That tells you a lot about who de Pluminel is and his motivations. That’s a good introduction to the character.
In the last two paragraphs he thinks to himself about wanting a mate for his mare and after seeing Black on some competition footage he’s decided he wants that horse to do the job. Here we get one last piece of exposition that I think sets him up as a potential baddie: “He was determined that nothing would keep him from acquiring the Black for his mare. He was a man who took what he wanted. He was as remorseless as he was powerful.” Ghost appears to be all that matters to him and he’s not a man to take no for an answer. My question is, will De Pluminel attempt to take Black or is he willing to just have the horses…do what horses do (possibly into a cup, but this is a young person’s novel from the late 1970s) and move on to his new performance at Ringling Brothers? Only time and the next 19 chapters will tell.
The description of Ghost’s performance sounded beautiful, tying the music in with her routine, but as someone who knows little to nothing about horse performances there were parts that didn’t get a proper picture in my head. Some of the terms sound like ballet, something else I know little about but slightly more than horse shows. I did get some of the terms but there were others that were either ballet or horse performance related that I didn’t follow, and not just because I know only enough French to not order the escargot. Some ballet terms I knew had my head wanting to put the horse on two legs and dancing like a human rather than a horse on two or all four legs, which I don’t think works in this universe. It’s not a complaint since I’m sure plenty of Farley’s intended audience might know what was happening but since I’m not the intended audience (not being a horse fan) I found it hard to follow at times. Imagine me trying to do so at about 8-10 years old.
Still, it’s a fair start to the book as we’ve at least established the catalyst for the upcoming events. In two weeks I’m assuming we meet our hero, based on the title.
Next time: The Black Stallion