“The Horseman: a novel” by Tim Pears (Bloomsbury, 2017)

Oh, what a lovely book!  The time is January, 1911 through June, 1912.  The place is the estate of Lord Prideaux in south-central England.  The main protagonist is Leo Sercombe, 11, youngest son of Alfred Sercombe, the carter on the estate.  Leo’s stoic, quiet demeanor is enlivened only by horses.  He barely endures school, often truant to be with the horses.  

Leo’s same age is Lottie Prideaux, only and willful child of Lord Prideaux, who is widowed.  She is an excellent horsewoman and hunter – a little tomboy.  This book is the first of a trilogy taking Leo and Lottie from adolescence through the end of WWI.  

What makes this book special is the loving detail with which Pears describes life on the farms of the estate through the year and a half.  We witness the intense labor involving horses, machines and labor pools that expand and contract among the neighbors as needed.  We learn the roles of the carter, the grooms, the wheelwright, the farmers, the gamekeeper and other trade specialists that keep the estate producing.  Woven throughout are the personalities of these people and Leo’s immediate and extended family.  

Highly recommended for readers who enjoy a good historical novel based in early 20th century England.