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Firehorse by Diane Lee Wilson


by Diane Lee Wilson

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183264,645 (3.78)7



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A straightforward narrative with few real surprises and rather wooden characters, this novel--set in the Victorian period--concerns a young girl (Rachel Selby) who moves to Boston and becomes involved in the care of a badly burned horse used by one of the fire departments in the city. By watching the vet treat the horse, Rachel decides that she too wishes to become a "veterinary" (as they were then known). When a huge fire occurs in Boston, she has a chance to demonstrate the seriousness of her intentions. Rachel's closeminded, paternalistic father is predictably loudly opposed to Rachel's professional aspirations, but she finds some support from a rather unexpected quarter--her apparently conservative mother, who, in her own youth, gave up a career as a pianist in order to marry.
In the final analysis, I wish the characters in this book had been more lively. They felt stiff and lflat, so a story that could have been terrific was rather lacklustre. Rachel's grandmother is somewhat interesting, but full of strangely conflicting traits--e.g. protofeminist but intensely religious--in the fire and brimstone manner--lively but full of gloom and doom about her own end--so ultimately not quite credible. Father was too nasty and mother too conservative (so her support of Rachel seemed to come right out of left field.) The romance, too, between Rachel and the young veterinarian was bland. A book for the diehard pre-teen girl horse lover only. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Jan 16, 2012 |
Fifteen year-old Rachel is growing up in a man's world. When her family abruptly moves to Boston, Rachel's beloved horse Peaches is sold without ceremony, and Rachel is told she will become a proper young lady. Bereft, in a strange city with no friends, Rachel pines for home and Peaches.

Boston in 1872 is a city with its own problems. Built mostly of wood, it has relatively few fire departments. During a long hot summer, a firebug strikes repeatedly and at random. When a mysterious illness strikes the city's work horses and the firehorses, too, begin falling sick and dying, disaster looms.

Following a horrific fire in which a number of horses are killed, Rachel's brother is given the care of a badly burned firehorse, the Governor's Girl. Assisting with the mare's care, Rachel finds her calling: she will become a veterinarian. Rachel's father, however, is a man typical of the times: convinced women must be protected and managed. Even when Rachel finds lukewarm support for her goal from the vet caring for Governor's Girl, she still faces the stigma of impropriety and indecency for wanting to do a "man's" work.

Wilson's characters stand on their own, from Rachel's feisty grandmother, to cheerful James and browbeaten Mrs. Selby. Careful research fleshes out the story, and Wilson's love of and familiarity with horses shines through. A great book for horse lovers, and also a good book to accompany an introduction to the suffrage movement. ( )
1 vote SunnySD | Nov 6, 2007 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Diane Lee Wilsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Elwell, TristanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Bailey, now and always
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I've always been running, it seems.
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Spirited fifteen-year-old horse lover Rachel Selby determines to become a veterinarian, despite the opposition of her rigid father, her proper mother, and the norms of Boston in 1872, while that city faces a serial arsonist and an epidemic spreading through its firehorse population.… (more)

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