Synopsis

The Mongol Derby is the world’s toughest horse race. A feat of endurance across the vast Mongolian plains once traversed by the people of Genghis Khan, competitors ride 25 horses across a distance of 1000km. Many riders don’t make it to the finish line.

In 2013 Lara Prior-Palmer – nineteen, underprepared but seeking the great unknown – decided to enter the race. Driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses, she raced for seven days through extreme heat and terrifying storms, catching a few hours of sleep where she could at the homes of nomadic families. Battling bouts of illness and dehydration, exhaustion and bruising falls, she found she had nothing to lose, and tore through the field with her motley crew of horses. In one of the Derby’s most unexpected results, she became the youngest-ever champion and the first woman to win the race.

Told with terrific suspense and style, in a voice full of poetry and soul, Rough Magic’s the extraordinary story of one young woman’s encounter with oblivion, and herself. LARA PRIOR-PALMER was born in London in 1994. Her aunt is Lucinda Green, a legendary rider and one of the UK’s best-ever equestrians.  Lara studied conceptual history and Persian at Stanford University. In 2013, she competed in the 1000-kilometer Mongol Derby in Mongolia, sometimes described as the world’s toughest and longest horse race. Rough Magic is her first book.

 

My review

This is an exhilarating account of a very exciting and gruelling race told in a very memorable way. Almost lyrical at times, the writing is also as brutal as the race itself.

It’s hard to believe the narrator is so young. This is such an incredible undertaking for anyone, let alone someone just out of school, to undertake. From drifting indecision, Lara Prior-Palmer becomes incredibly focussed and tackles the various problems and difficulties in signing up for and funding her participation in the race.

The race itself is recounted in a fascinating way. As well as discovering the scenery, the author discovers a lot about herself. She tells it as it is, at times not showing herself in her best light but a test like this is pushing her to the limit. Her admiration for the animals she rides really shines through because to her they are the stars of the show, although I think the reader is more impressed by this tenacious young lady.

It’s an unusual and gripping memoir, thoroughly enjoyable and absolutely one to read.

  

MORE ADVANCE PRAISE FOR ROUGH MAGIC

“Rough Magic is (Prior-Palmer’s) chronicle of the experience, and if her debut as an author is half as strong as her maiden effort in racing, it will be well worth the read.”  HuffPost

“Rough Magic is the most entertaining memoir I’ve read in years. It’s thrilling, hilarious, unexpected, and ultimately breathtaking. I loved every minute of this wild ride.”  Abbi Geni, author of The Wildlands and the award-winning The Lightkeepers

“Prior-Palmer’s style is a fascinating mix of pep and poignancy. A really terrific story by a spirited new voice.”  Sara Baume, author of A Line Made by Walking

“In Rough Magic she possesses Annie Dillard’s brilliance for noticing, laced with a wild and glistering humour. If an intellect can be said to be elemental, this is it.”  Josephine Rowe, author of A Loving, Faithful Animal

“This debut memoir is a brilliant literary exploration of loneliness and an exhilarating, funny, soulful account of how one young woman, against all odds, won a truly extraordinary race.” Kristen Radtke, author of Imagine Wanting Only This

“As fast-paced as the swiftest Mongolian race horse, Lara’s searingly honest account of her astonishing rise from hopeless underdog to Mongol Derby Champion leaves grit in your teeth and dust in your hair. I laughed, I cried and I felt every bruise. I was riveted till the last word and left with lasting daydreams of Mongolian horizons.” Felicity Aston, author of Alone in Antarctica

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