Mary Gaitskill || The Mare

The Mare could have become extremely tacky: a childless couple has a Dominican young girl from a one parent family over for the holidays. This girl, Velvet, turns out to be a natural when it comes to horses. She understands them and is a perfect rider. She is the only one who can get through to the most troublesome mare at the stables who has a history of abuse and violence. The parallel with Velvet is obvious. She grows up with a mother who only knows to humiliate and hit her, because that is all she herself has ever gotten. Velvet grows up in an hostile environment, her mother, friends at school, the young men who want to seduce her despite her young age (13). An education is in no way relevant in Velvets world. Ginger and Paul show her another side of life. The Mare does not become tacky, because Gaitskill steers clear from developments that are not realistic. Velvets world does not change all of a sudden, her mother remains who she is and Ginger and Paul turn out to have their share of problems as well. Ginger’s naïve believe that she can make things right for Velvet is tested again and again. Velvet is not an easy girl, despite all of Ginger’s attention she runs a high risk of becoming a teenage mother.
Being around horses a lot myself made the novel extra alluring to me. I liked the fact that Velvet does not copy her mother’s harsh way of educating: punishing and hurting horses in order to make them strong and proud. Velvet understands that the horses need love, attention and respect. She does not respect the trainer who makes horses submit to her by sheer force and violence. And neither do I.
Gaitskill does not provide The Mare with an happy ending. Though Velvet has had a taste of success, she still remains the young Dominican girl trying to survive in an harsh neighbourhood. She might become a teenage mother, she might go to college, Velvet’s only certainty is that she will one day see her horse Fiery Girl again.

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About booksandliliane

I am an avid reader and love to share my love for literature. I have my own opinion on books that have been shortlisted, laureated by critics or are pushed on us by bookstores. I will try and explain why I like or do not like a book. Hopefully influencing you in your choice of books to read.
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