Smiley, Jane

About the author

Jane Smiley (b.1949) was born in Los Angeles, California, and was educated at Vassar College and the University of Iowa. She taught at the University of Iowa until 1996. Her first novel, Barn Blind, appeared in 1980, and she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for A Thousand Acres. In 2001 she was made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2006 was awarded the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature.

Jane Smiley is a great writer who writes the occasional great horse book. Horse Heaven, has had a generally rapturous reception, and she has now written a series of children’s horse books. The first of these, The Georges and the Jewels, is the strongest. It’s a slow paced study of a girl finding her way through a complicated world. The rest of the series, whilst still involving, don’t reach quite the heights of the first.

Finding the books
All are in print and easy to find.

Links and sources
Jane Smiley on Wikipedia

Bibliography (horse books only)

Barn Blind

Harper & Row, New York, 1980, 218 pp.
Flamingo, London, 1994, 218 pp.

In rural Illinois, Kate Karlsen has 50 horses and four children. She has no help to look after the horses apart from the children, who are part of her disciplined and rather unfeeling world until, with spectacular and tragic results, they rebel.

Horse Heaven

Alfred A Knopf, New York, 2000, 561 pp. Jacket painting: Hanover, C L Zellinsky
Faber & Faber, London, 2001, 699 pp.

A story of racing and its intertwined world: Epic Steam; Residual; Limitless; Froney’s Sis and Justa Bob, a set of radically different horses.

Bibliography (children’s books)

The Georges and the Jewels

Alfred A Knopf, New York, 2009, illus Elaine Clayton, 232 pp.

UK:  Nobody’s Horse
Faber and Faber Ltd, London, 2010, 266 pp.

Read a review here

Abby is the daughter of a horse dealer father, and she has problems: problems at school and problems at home. Abby’s job is to get the horses ready for sale, but her father buys one which terrifies her.

A Good Horse

Alfred A Knopf, New York, 2010, illus Elaine Clayton, 246 pp.

UK:  Secret Horse
Faber and Faber Ltd, London, 2011, 299 pp.

Read a review here

Abby’s colt Jack is growing up, and Abby’s doing well with Black George. Life seems much more settled, but then a letter arrives. Jack’s mother, whom Abby’s father bought from a sale, might be a stolen mare who was in foal to a very expensive stallion indeed.

True Blue

Alfred A Knopf, New York, 2011, illus Elaine Clayton, 297 pp.

UK:  Mystery Horse
Faber and Faber Ltd, London, 2012, 299 pp.

Read a review here

Abby buys mystery horse True Blue, whose owner has died. Once she gets him home, Abby becomes convinced she and Blue are being haunted by his former owner.

Pie in the Sky

Alfred A Knopf, New York, 2012, illus Elaine Clayton, 257 pp.

UK:  Champion Horse
Faber and Faber Ltd, London, 2013, 320 pp.

Read a review here

Abby takes her horse, True Blue, to a clinic led by a famous equestrian. To her surprise, Sophia, Miss Perfect, is suddenly the girl who makes so many mistakes she stops riding. Abby gets to ride her horse, Pie in the Sky. Abby has other challenges: school and friends are both changing.

Gee Whizz

Alfred A Knopf, New York, 2013

UK: Star Horse
Faber and Faber Ltd, London, 2014,

Gee Whizz is a striking horse: tall and graceful. Abby’s brother is drafted for
Vietnam, and her friends are at school in California. And then her horses, Jack
and True Blue are both faced with opportunities to broaden their horizons away
from the ranch.

Bibliography (non fiction)

A Year at the Races: Reflections on Horses, Humans, Love, Money, and Luck

Alfred A Knopf, New York, 2004, 297 pp.
Faber and Faber, London, 2004, 287 pp.

Non fiction, this is Jane Smiley’s account of her love affair with the Horse.