cover image A Fine Place to Daydream: Racehorses, Romance and the Irish

A Fine Place to Daydream: Racehorses, Romance and the Irish

Bill Barich, . . Knopf, $24 (228pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-4279-1

Barich, a former New Yorker writer, moves to Dublin after falling in love with an Irish woman, but shortly after his arrival he develops an (arguably) even stronger passion for gambling on Irish horse races. This obsession is an extension of his longstanding infatuation with the racetrack (which was the basis for his 1980 classic, Laughing at the Hills ). But the steeplechase popular throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom is an entirely different type of race, where a horse's jumping skills matter as much as speed. Barich follows a steeplechase season from October to March, culminating in a weeklong series of races at Cheltenham, England, and consults as many horse trainers, jockeys, bookies and fellow fans as he can find to get the inside dope on how he should place his bets. His narrative is simple but elegant, and his language is erudite without being pretentious. (When he slips in an allusion to Ulysses , for example, it's so casual that it won't stop readers who don't catch it.) The book's setting may be exotic to American readers, but the sheer joy of being a sports fan will be familiar to many. (Mar.)