cover image Perestroika in Paris

Perestroika in Paris

Jane Smiley. Knopf, $26.95 (288) ISBN 978-0-525-52035-1

Fans of Pulitzer winner Smiley (A Thousand Acres) won’t be surprised to find a horse in her fanciful latest; this time out it’s a talking racehorse named Perestroika. Paras, as the horse is known, wanders out of her stable and finds herself in Paris’s Place du Trocadéro, where she meets Frida, a shorthaired German pointer who understands money and uses it to buy food for Paras and herself. There are no yellow vest protestors in Smiley’s idyllic Paris, where shopkeepers know all their customers and happily make change for well-behaved Frida. Paras was happy at the track, but she’s too curious to stay there (as Smiley indicates perhaps too often), and in her fable-like travels around Paris she encounters a wise raven who dispenses advice, an eight-year-old orphan who can hide a horse, and plenty of happy endings—not just for the animals, but for the people they encounter, especially if they, like Paras, are open to seeing the wonders of the world. As relationships deepen between animals and humans in their exploration of where to call home, Smiley steers them toward a satisfying feel-good ending. Relentlessly upbeat—there are no villains here, and even dogs and rats cooperate—this is the perfect book for those for whom the real world, wracked with pandemic and politics, has become something to avoid. (Dec.)