Jan 1, 2008

Horses, Sagas, and Suspense

A Good Horse Has No Color: Searching Iceland for the Perfect Horse, by Nancy Marie Brown. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001. 243 pgs.

This is Brown's first book, and it is a creative and compelling mix of Icelandic history, literature, and culture, horsemanship, and well drawn descriptions of people. It kept my interest in the same way that a fast-paced mystery does, but in this case the fast pace was horsey, and the mystery was: will Nancy find the perfect horse? If so, which one will be right for her, and why? She keeps up the suspense until the very end of the book.

What seems a fairly simple matter--shopping for a horse, or two--becomes increasingly complex the more that Nancy, and the reader, learn about horses in general, and the Icelandics in particular. All of the human interactions (with horse breeders, trekkers, friends) make the decision of which horse to purchase, whose advice to take, even more complex and interesting.
The book focuses on a span of 2-3 years, although Nancy's other trips to Iceland over the course of 12 years or so are touched on. Nancy Marie Brown, and her huband, Charles Fergus, spent a summer with their son at Litla Hruan (Little Lava), where this book was born. Her husband wrote a book (Summer at Little Lava) at the same time in the same place, with a very different focus. It is fascinating to read a book that touches on many similar things from another point of view.

Nancy spends much of her time at the Snorrastadir horse farm, where my family stayed a night, and where we went on an epic horseback ride involving trolls. It was fun to return to Snorrastadir and stay for a longer, more intimate visit, seeing the farm and the occupants through Nancy's eyes.

I wish I had read this book before I rode Icelandic horses, because I learned a great deal from Nancy's exeriences (and mistakes!) and from her intense research, and would have appreciated the experience even more. I really like the way that Nancy is successful at interweaving the different strands of her tale...she is passionate and knowledgeable about the Sagas, and recounts many saga tales that pertain to places she visits or horses she meets.

This book really has wide appeal, and I expect to enjoy her next book even more. Nancy now has four Icelandic horses, and in addition to writing helps edit the Icelandic Horse Quarterly.

And thanks for the loan, Shannon!


Shannon said...

I'm glad you liked it! Happy New Year!

lab munkay said...

I read your post about riding horses in Iceland and turned as green as your blog with envy. Lucky you?

Rose said...

I'm green just thinking back to it--it was heavenly! Very different from riding either English or Western on a non-Icelandic horse.
So...did you know I used to work in prisons too?