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The Crack Magazine

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Kick the Latch by Kathryn Scanlan

I dunno, I might be wrong, but I think I saw Clio Barnard, Sam Shepard and Ryan Bingham watching over me when I started writing the review of this book. Well, maybe I didn’t, but there’s elements of all these equine greats in this novel, based on transcribed interviews with ‘Sonia’, whose life at the racetrack and love of horses has been captured brilliantly by Kathryn Scanlan in Kick the Latch. Short, sharp, hard-hitting chapters, detail the early years of Sonia’s life, her love of horses and her gradual drift from working at a stables to becoming a racetracker. She catalogues the long hours, food on the run, the races, the poor and knackered horses, the male creeps who are, as usual, common as horseshit. Alongside this, though, runs the joy of working with horses, the stabling, training, riding and occasionally the winning, “A racetracker doesn’t say We won a race. A racetracker says, We win. It’s not proper English. It’s not We won. It’s not We will win. The race is over, it’s already won, but we say We win, we win, we win’.” As a woman she constantly has to prove herself, “They liked me okay but I was still a girl trainer. Everything you do you have to do twice as hard”. Eventually the racetrack life palls as she gets older and she leaves it behind to get a normal job and spend more time with her elderly parents, “I suppose I was satisfied with what I’d done. My parents sacrificed a lot for me. It felt like it was time I did something for them. So I moved home and tried to be a normal person”. Sonia is the kind of normal person who’s rarely caught in books, television or film, but Kathryn Scanlan vividly captures her in Kick the Latch. A normal commonplace working class hero. Totally recommended


Kick the Latch – Kathryn Scanlan - publ. Daunt Books Originals - £9.99

Steven Long