As the shadows lengthen over the June grass, all England is heading for Epsom Downs’ high life and low life, society beautifies and Whitechapel street girls, bookmakers and gypsies, acrobats and thieves. Whole families stream along the Surrey back-roads, towards the greatest race of the year. Hopes are high, nerves are taut, hats are tossed in the air. This is Derby Day. In this rich and exuberant novel, the mysteries pile high, propelling us towards the day of the great race, as we wait with baited breath as the story gallops to a finish no one expects.
What I thought this book was about: The Victorian horsey upper-crust attending the Derby with a little mystery and maybe some house party shenanigans thrown in for fun. Perhaps the Prince of Wales and some of his set would feature as characters.
What this book was really about: A mystery that had the husband of the lady daughter of a Marquess as a minor character. The rest of the characters were mostly shady men–including the “unknown” man that marries the Marquess’s daughter’s daughter. And a girl with either autism or severe cognitive impairment.
I started off reading this in print from the library, but couldn’t renew it. I’d forgotten it so only got about 20 pages done when I had to renew it. I needed an audiobook for my commute and also hoped it would go with a topical post I was planning, so I listened to it this time and enjoyed it. It just wasn’t really what I was expecting from the blurb. This book was nominated for the Man Booker Prize and was named as a Book of the Year by the Washington Post. If you would like a Dick Francis novel set in Victorian times, this is your book. I happen to enjoy Dick Francis, but only on audio, so this was a good choice for me in spite of my initial confusion on the story.
Derby Day: A Novel by D.J. Taylor
What a Difference a Cover Can Make
The cover on the left is the one I saw and that interested me in the book. The cover in the middle is likely the most “accurate” cover for the book. I don’t know who or what inspired the miserable scene in the last cover but it brings nothing of the book to mind. A cover can make or break a book–we really do judge books by their cover, even if it is only one element in how we evaluate a book as a potential read.