Rough Magic
For fans of Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk, this is the extraordinary debut memoir of a young woman who traveled to Mongolia to compete in the world’s longest, toughest horse race, and emerged as its youngest and first-ever female winner.At the age of nineteen, Lara Prior-Palmer discovered a website devoted to “the world’s longest, toughest horse race”—an annual competition of endurance and skill that involves dozens of riders racing a series of twenty-five wild ponies across 1,000 kilometers of Mongolian grassland. On a whim, she decided to enter the race. As she boarded a plane to East Asia, she was utterly unprepared for what awaited her.Riders often spend years preparing to compete in the Mongol Derby, a course that recreates the horse messenger system developed by Genghis Khan, and many fail to finish. Prior-Palmer had no formal training. She was driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses. She raced for ten 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 decided she had nothing to lose. Each dawn she rode out again on a fresh horse, scrambling up mountains, swimming through rivers, crossing woodlands and wetlands, arid dunes and open steppe, as American television crews chased her in their Jeeps.Told with terrific suspense and style, in a voice full of poetry and soul, Rough Magic captures the extraordinary story of one young woman who forged ahead, against all odds, to become the first female winner of this breathtaking race.

Rough Magic Details

TitleRough Magic
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 7th, 2019
PublisherCatapult
ISBN-139781948226196
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Animals, Travel, Biography Memoir

Rough Magic Review

  • karen
    January 1, 1970
    NOW AVAILABLE!!!there is a 1,000 kilometer horse race in mongolia called the mongol derby with the reputation of being “the world’s longest, toughest horse race.” human riders mount a series of 25 wild ponies, swapping ‘em out every 40 kilometers “to ensure the endurance [falls] on the humans, not the horses.” participants train rigorously, obtain sponsorships to offset the enormous entrance fees, prepare themselves for the physical and psychological hardships of being on horseback for more than NOW AVAILABLE!!!there is a 1,000 kilometer horse race in mongolia called the mongol derby with the reputation of being “the world’s longest, toughest horse race.” human riders mount a series of 25 wild ponies, swapping ‘em out every 40 kilometers “to ensure the endurance [falls] on the humans, not the horses.” participants train rigorously, obtain sponsorships to offset the enormous entrance fees, prepare themselves for the physical and psychological hardships of being on horseback for more than a week; through the heat and the rain and the aches and exhaustion of what is a frequently solitary trek over mongolia’s unforgiving terrain. despite all these preparatory measures, many riders do not make it to the finish line due to illness, injury, or fatigue. long story short - attempting this race requires commitment, dedication and sacrifice.or, you know, you could just sorta wing it.this is a memoir written by the nineteen-year-old woman who entered the derby on a whim, prepared not at all; didn’t train, didn’t get the required vaccinations, didn’t even bring a change of pants and somehow not only won the race, but was both the youngest and also the first female to ever win.and this book is how a person like that writes a memoir, or an account of this race. it’s not quite either of these approaches; it’s a little flighty, a little flitty — it’s where that kind of mind goes when it’s largely unoccupied and let off its tether for long solitary hours. the book is full of sentences like this: Why do humans put so much thought into some decisions yet plunge into others like cavalier penguins? Are we met with a sudden urge to avoid the direct path to middle age and subsequent visions of growing old in a lonely world of cats?parts of this book feel like the script for some “girls can be forrest gump, too!” sequel — not because the author is slow, but because of how unlikely her even finishing the race was, considering her level of preparedness — I had never ridden more than 20 kilometers at once, let alone with a GPS, and, as established, I didn’t know how to use one anyway. not only did she enter on a whim, she entered after the deadline had passed, didn’t read much of the fine print, only half-filled out the medical forms and yet at every turn, logic looked the other way, fortune was feeling generous, and history was made by someone who forgot to take the pills that would stop her period and wound up bleeding all over her pony. despite embodying (and playing up a little, i suspect) the whole ‘god watches over drunks and fools’ angle — Wolves, snakes, and mountain lions can’t eat me because I’m not yet aware they roam these parts, she’s a little more savvy than some simpleton chasing a balloon; she manages to talk her way into paying less than half of the entrance fee, cadge gear off of fellow riders, and she’s got a deeply-ingrained competitive streak, so despite her somewhat-cultivated veneer of padded innocence:I didn’t think about rain, so I don’t have a change of clothes. No pajamas. No second pair of jodhpurs. Just a spare pair of socks and a pair of knickers. “Oh dear, I’m going to have to sleep naked.”It wasn’t necessary for me to say that aloud, but I don’t think anyone noticed.there’s a flint of steely stubbornness at her core. still, every single thing about her involvement in this race is haphazard - she remembers to bring some medicine, but removes the pills from their packets "in a fit of boredom," flinging them altogether in one bag so she doesn’t know which are antibiotics and which are water purifying pills and which are ibuprofen, etc, so she just swallows whatever’s on top and hopes for the best. it sounds slapsticky, but it’s not written slapsticky. okay, sometimes it is slapsticky:I got entangled in my backpack first thing the next morning, which required the rescue of three crew members...it's a fun rompy read, but if you are looking for a book about the history of the race, or a book of sports writing, or one getting to the core of what makes a champion athlete tick, this might not deliver that for you. it's a hodgepodge rummage sale memoir-daydream that is weird and fun and that was enough for me and maybe it will be enough for you!!come to my blog!
    more
  • Will Byrnes
    January 1, 1970
    Image from The Adventurists Many of the people I’ll meet on the steppe hold horses as sacred. There are more love songs about horses than about women in Mongolia—for example, ponies come last in races are sung commiseration songs because no one wants them to feel bad. Your horse is an extension of you. A Mongol without a horse is like a bird without wings—goes the proverb. Even horses’ skulls are sacred. They’re made into musical instruments, whose sounds comfort mourning souls. What has 25 l Image from The Adventurists Many of the people I’ll meet on the steppe hold horses as sacred. There are more love songs about horses than about women in Mongolia—for example, ponies come last in races are sung commiseration songs because no one wants them to feel bad. Your horse is an extension of you. A Mongol without a horse is like a bird without wings—goes the proverb. Even horses’ skulls are sacred. They’re made into musical instruments, whose sounds comfort mourning souls. What has 25 legs and covers 1,000 kilometers? Why, the Mongol Derby, of course. Ring any bells? Ummm, me neither. Unless one is particularly attuned to the worlds of equestrian sports or extreme competitions we would be unlikely to have heard of it. Lara Prior-Palmer had heard of it, but had not paid much attention. The entry fee was exorbitant (about $13K US), which led her to expect that she would not be able to even think of attempting it until she was in her thirties, if then. A bored teen, a year out of high school, recently sacked from her au pair gig in Austria, her applications for other adventures producing a resounding silence, she was trolling about for her next thing, whatever might quell the inner buzz that grows louder and louder until it drowns out everything but a way forward, any way forward. She was looking on-line for something to quiet the din, when it reappeared. The passing London underground train shook the building as I leaned into the photograph—long-maned ponies streaming over green steppes, space poured wide and free—in Mongolia. The open-voweled sounds of the word matched the freedom of the country conjured in my mind. I couldn’t place Mongolia in history, nor could I place it on the map. She read on, learning that thirty riders had already signed up, that riders switch ponies every 40 Km, that the race was held in a Pony Express style that recalled Chingiss Khan’s postal system, and that it was deemed “the world’s longest and toughest horse race.” She clicked the box.Lara Prior-Palmer - image from her Amazon pageWhat are the things we might look for in a memoir of this sort? One would hope for a look at an exotic place from a perspective familiar to readers, presuming most readers to be Westerners. Given that it is a sports competition, we would hope for a look at the particulars of this race, what, if anything, sets it apart from other competitions? You’ve gotta figure that a 1,000 kilometer horse race would have to also be a journey of self-discovery, and there is at least some of that in here. Not to say that it was intended. The writing of this book began on the plane ride home to England from Ulaanbaatar, and was intended mostly as a large note-taking effort to better allow Lara to recall the event. Encouraged to expand her 25,000 words to book length by folks to whom she showed her writing, Prior-Palmer did just that, working on the manuscript, off and on, for about five years. It helps if the author can bring some talent, maybe an appreciation of beauty in her writing.A Mongolian ger (yurt) - image from Phys.orgTough to get more exotic than Mongolia for most of us. And while you may be familiar with some of the weather the riders encounter, hot, cold, wind, hail, rain, you have probably not done so while engaged in a grueling horse race. Prior-Palmer fills us in on a host of local details. You will learn of the proper seating arrangements in a Mongolian ger (pronounced ‘gaire’), get a heads up on the proper behavior when encountering an ovoo, (a local shrine consisting of accumulated placed stones, and offerings), and marvel at car parts placed in trees to help gain the assistance of local deities in assuring that the subject vehicle remains in good working order. There are observations or Mongolian history and lore. One local historical figure was Molon Bagsh, an itinerant philosopher who supposedly predicted many of the wonders of the modern age from his perspective in the early 1900s. She offers a bit on the deep respect Mongolians have for the equine partners. One strand of Mongolian philosophy has it that my chest, not my brain, is the seat of my consciousness. It contains my heimori (wind-horse)—an inner creature whose power needs maintaining. When you rub a racehorse’s sweat into your forehead or ride a great, quick pony, you strengthen your heimori and improve your destiny. (You might want to towel off after that.) There are plenty more such, and they are delightful. The race itself occupies most of her consciousness. There is plenty of detail on how it is run, the accommodations, the horses, referred to here almost primarily as ponies. (BTW, to be a horse there is a height bar, 14.2 hands, or about four feet ten inches. Shorter than that, you are a pony. Mongolian equines tend to the shorter end of the bell curve.) The selection process. Which pony to choose? Based on what? Loving the ponies who were eager to fly, but having to cope with some which were far from enthusiastic. The relationships among the riders is pretty significant, particularly Lara’s relationship with an American rider, one Devan Horn, portrayed as a braggadocios Texan, certain that she will prevail. What begins as a bit of competitiveness becomes an all-consuming quest to see to it that this person is denied that victory. Her bonding, or not, with other riders, and non-riders (newspeople, veterinarians, race managers) is an ongoing subject. There are connections made or almost made during the race that highlight interpersonal challenges Lara must resolve, at least temporarily. It is difficult, and not at all necessary, to separate her coping with the race from her dealings with the locals. Riders often stay in the homes of residents, and Lara recalls some charming, as well as clueless interactions. Ponies in waiting - image from The AdventuristsBear in mind that Lara was barely 19 years old when she undertook this adventure. Her age certainly a factor in her degree of unpreparedness. While a good chunk of who we all are is well set by such an age, it takes plenty more years for the rest of the permanent us to form. What we see here is Lara as a work-in-progress. One element that manifests stronglyis the sort of stiff-upper-lip found in explorers and adventurers. I suppose we think of pain as associated with an event—an accident, for example. We don’t imagine it going on forever. I found no space for pain and its expression in daily life. She is also someone uncomfortable around public feelings. I shiver a little, relieved to be away from Clare. [a rider with whom Lara had spent some time during the competition] I find emotions contagious, swear I can catch them like flu. I’ve always been wary of upset and sickness. Aged seven, I dubbed people crybabies as though it were a life sentence and I winced in repulsion if someone missed school for sickness. I refused to let such a thing happen to me. Although later on I used sickness to save me from school, I still had no empathy for the unwell and the upset. Why would I try to imagine how Clare feels when I’m appalled she’s displayed the emotional hold the Derby has on her. Such is the strangeness of my selfishness. We get some background on family influences that fed her drive. Her Aunt Lucinda was an Olympian, having competed in equestrian events. Her favorite, no nonsense, phrase for just get on with it being “Crack On!” Her grandfather, a military general, was fond of “Just do it.” Firmed up for competition and adventure by such, she was much less able to cope with more emotional challenges. …my real fears aren’t the broken bones or the missing ponies. My real fears are long-term affairs like school, marriage, and jobs. Anything requiring a commitment longer than a ten-day race. Maybe because millions of people manage these commitments, they go unnoticed. Ordinary jobs and relationships—spread over humdrum time—are rarely thought of as brave or strong. And therein, among other such contemplations, is where we find some of the distance that Lara travels personally. Over the course of the book we see some development that maybe Lara herself does not quite perceive. Learning to see things from someone else’s perspective, learning to consider other ways to value things and actions. Her sense of not quite knowing who she is persists. It’s just I haven’t decided if I’m woodland-wild or fireside-tame, and probably never will. But she has certainly gained in building on the self-reflective muscle she finds inside. Lara accepting a congratulatory call after her victory – Devan Horn in the background will have to wait for another chance-image from CNNA pointed element of self-realization is her change from seeing the race as an adventure, hoping mostly just to finish, to feeling the fire of competitiveness that was there all along, and not just to be able to stick it to Devan. There certainly must have been some part of Lara that chose a competitive adventure over the many others that the world offers. And she becomes more aware of that part of herself. She grew up in a culture that scorns overt ambition, and public presentations of self-confidence, so there was plenty of reason for her to suppress or hide her very real competitiveness. We read of sporting victories in the newspapers, but what about all we cannot see? It’s easy to forget the thudded moments of hopelessness involved in a journey, one’s deepest difficulties slowly made clear. In addition to coping with some inner parts of herself undergoing a bit of examination, Prior-Palmer suffered some of the misfortunes that were visited on other contestants: bruises, dehydration, being tossed from her mount, having to get help retrieving it, becoming ill on the (for her) six-day race. And then there were self-imposed problems, being unprepared in sundry ways, like not bringing a map, not getting the recommended vaccinations, never having ridden even a one-day race, let alone one that could last ten days, or not providing for some sanitary needs. There is some contemplative poetic writing in Prior-Palmer’s memoir. Particularly when she writes of her feeling of oneness with her ponies. For two and a half hours my focus is whole. He moves fluently, and I note the quiet warmth of his company. You make no eye contact when riding, but we’re in communication, working a shared form, like shoaling fish. Horses have always been siblings to me, pressing their noses against my back and breathing out winter breath, slowly trusting. From his silence and the morning I draw something, something like strength…Instead of loneliness I feel loveliness. Everything in the hour is familiar. The pony hurries on beneath me, persuading his way into my heart. Image from CNNA thread in the book consists of passages from The Tempest, one of the reading materials she brought with her, to illustrate this or that. The arrival of the storm-driven characters in Shakespeare’s final play, washed clean in a way, pops to mind as she is caught in downpour on the steppe. A passage in which Ariel sings about a sea change in the play connects with Lara feeling transformed while riding a pony she names The Lion. It is a lovely element, but still felt a bit forced. There was plenty going on without it. The book’s title is drawn from The Tempest as well, which seemed workshop-y and less than organic, at first, given that the “rough magic” referred to in the play has to do with the bard’s ability to present fiction as reality. But on further consideration, if we forget the Shakespearean bit for a moment, “Rough” certainly works as a description of the event, and “Magic” is certainly appropriate or the magical ending of the competition, and some of Lara’s perceptions. So, never mind.Since the race, Prior-Palmer, now 24, has been to University and worked on this book in fits and starts. She feels her experience gave her a better ability to consider alternate viewpoints. But she did not feel particularly changed by the race itself at the time. She remained very much who she was, an adventure-seeking, athletic, bright, articulate young woman with a world of possibilities ahead of her and a world-class achievement already in the bag.Review posted – May 31, 2019Publication date – May 7, 2019I received an ARE of Rough Magic from Catapult in return for a fair review. Thankfully, they did not insist that I cross the planet or traverse vast distances on diverse equines to earn the opportunity.=============================EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author’s GR and Twitter pagesInterviews-----Electric Lit - The Youngest Woman to win the Mongol Derby by Halimah Marcus-----NY Times - An Unlikely Victory in an Unforgiving Horse Race - by John Williams-----NY Post - How a teen became the first woman to win the grueling Mongol Derby- by Hailey Eber-----Entertainment Weekly - In Rough Magic, Lara Prior-Palmer poetically recounts an unlikely triumph - by David CanfieldItems of Interest-----National Geographic – August 2014 - World's Toughest Horse Race Retraces Genghis Khan's Postal Route - by Ashleigh N. DeLuca-----ABC Nightline Mongol Derby: World's Longest, Toughest Horse Race-----The Adventurists - A Brief Guide to The Mongol Derby-----The Adventurists - Brochures for the Mongol Derby-----Text of the play - The Tempest-----Ott’s World - What is a Mongolian Ger and Traditions?-----National Geographic –wonderful images of the Yurt-----For more on Ovoos check here, here or hereAn Ovoo - image from ToursMongolia.comBy Lara-----Wanderlust Magazine - How I won the world's toughest horse race-----The Telegraph – from before the race - Meet the teenage girl who's competing in the world's toughest horse race-----Lara’s TED talkOther notable memoirs by women-----Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris-----Educated by Tara Westover-----Lab Girl by Jahren Hope-----H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald-----Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
    more
  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    "Riding is a dance that demands each muscle in your body answer to an ever-shifting floor"Put aside the fact that the outcome of this race is known before Lara Prior-Palmer begins her story, here is proof positive that it is the journey, not the arrival, that is most important. How Lara, a woefully under prepared 19-year-old decides to participate in a horserace that traces the Mongolian course of Genghis Khan's pony express, 1,000 kilometers with no preplanned route, is the stuff of almost myth "Riding is a dance that demands each muscle in your body answer to an ever-shifting floor"Put aside the fact that the outcome of this race is known before Lara Prior-Palmer begins her story, here is proof positive that it is the journey, not the arrival, that is most important. How Lara, a woefully under prepared 19-year-old decides to participate in a horserace that traces the Mongolian course of Genghis Khan's pony express, 1,000 kilometers with no preplanned route, is the stuff of almost mythic stamina and excitement. At times I was reminded of Cheryl Strayed's Wild, as both young women embark on their quests with little or no preparation, but merely a will to complete it. At first, she just doesn't want to come in last, but somewhere along the line the race grabs hold of her, and she becomes a competitor, not the least reason of which being peeved at the arrogance of the frontrunner, a Texan who has been trained and prepared and even before they've saddled for the first leg, has flashed her impending victory to ABC cameras. What truly sets this book apart is the writing, Lara's ability to describe her experience through gorgeous literary prose. Her descriptions of the landscape, the different "stations" where the riders change horses and are refreshed, her acceptance of the "Mongolian hospitality" and affection for these nomadic people, and most significantly, her connections to each of her mounts -- wild ponies each with a distinct personality and mindset of how to proceed. Important to the story is the Race Rule that at each leg a pony's heartbeat return to resting within a specified amount of time, so that the effort rests on the part of the rider not the animal. The fact that her choice of reading material is a copy of The Tempest, which provides the book's title. She also conjures her famous Aunt, Lucinda Prior-Palmer, an Olympic equestrienne, whose advice throughout her life has provided a beacon, if it is at sometimes grudging and/or hilarious. Wherever Lara's life takes her henceforth, I hope she continues with her story, since it can't help but be fascinating.
    more
  • Amanda
    January 1, 1970
    This was a really interesting read about the youngest and first female winner of the Mongolian horse derby. I was sent a preview of the book through a marketing email and the preview... was the whole book. I don’t know if that was an error or what, but I really enjoyed it and enjoyed being inside the author’s head as she treks across the open spaces of Mongolia, contemplating her place in the world.
    more
  • Rachel Watkins
    January 1, 1970
    Jump on, hang on, and don't fall off as Lara Prior-Palmer's ROUGH MAGIC recounts her riding and winning the world's longest, hardest horse race in Mongolia at the age of nineteen. This story is outrageous and told with lyrical intelligence. I couldn't put this down and read it in one day!
    more
  • Paris (parisperusing)
    January 1, 1970
    "I could not pull out of the race … so I let the terror energize me instead. Asked afterwards if I would dare attempt the race again, I’d reply that I could never again be scared enough to do so. The supernatural power of fearing the unknown stunned me into a state of readiness." — Rough Magic, Lara Prior-PalmerWhat a thrill, what a journey! Prior-Palmer writes with the galloping speed of a restless somebody and the unyielding ambition of a true underdog. By turns a tale of tribulation and trium "I could not pull out of the race … so I let the terror energize me instead. Asked afterwards if I would dare attempt the race again, I’d reply that I could never again be scared enough to do so. The supernatural power of fearing the unknown stunned me into a state of readiness." — Rough Magic, Lara Prior-PalmerWhat a thrill, what a journey! Prior-Palmer writes with the galloping speed of a restless somebody and the unyielding ambition of a true underdog. By turns a tale of tribulation and triumph, suspense and spirit, the emotional journey of Rough Magic ignites an immortal spark of inspiration that refuses to burn out. While I felt this memoir lost its momentum in certain parts — as is often the case with me and many memoirs — the imagery and emotion of Prior-Palmer's writing conveys a velocity of its own that made the story incredibly exciting.
    more
  • Kathleen
    January 1, 1970
    My review for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: http://www.startribune.com/review-rou...The Mongol Derby has only been around since 2009, but it immediately garnered and continues to hold the reputation of being the most grueling long-distance horse race on the planet. Following the route of the postal service that Genghis Khan established in 1224, riders traverse 1,000 kilometers across the sparsely populated Central Asian steppes, swapping their semi-wild horses every 40 kilometers and sleeping at My review for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: http://www.startribune.com/review-rou...The Mongol Derby has only been around since 2009, but it immediately garnered and continues to hold the reputation of being the most grueling long-distance horse race on the planet. Following the route of the postal service that Genghis Khan established in 1224, riders traverse 1,000 kilometers across the sparsely populated Central Asian steppes, swapping their semi-wild horses every 40 kilometers and sleeping at stations staffed by local nomadic herding families.Far from favored to win, 19-year-old Lara Prior-Palmer entered the 2013 race on a whim after finishing high school in her home country of England, when she was floating "in a debris of possible dates and implausible plans, with neither the funding nor the fervor to propel me onward.""Rough Magic: Riding the World's Loneliest Horse Race" is her gripping, self-searching, triumphant debut memoir about her successful effort to become the youngest rider and the first woman ever to win.An almost delusionally underprepared underdog, Prior-Palmer lies about her skills, name-drops her equestrian aunt Lucinda Green, gets the "phenomenal entry fee" reduced by over half, and shortly thereafter is off to Ulaanbaatar. Because any reader is going to know the race's outcome upon picking the book up, the interest lies not in the ending, but in how Prior-Palmer gets there.Luckily, she's an adept storyteller and a humble autobiographer, not afraid to let herself look unlikable or even obnoxious if the circumstances merit. "My thighs were strong and my heart was raw, yearning for my own motion," she writes; the winning vulnerability on display there and throughout this exceptional coming-of-age tale keeps the pages turning and the reader rooting for this unlikely heroine.A dreamy and peculiar person, Prior-Palmer totes a copy of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" with her because she likes to dive "into the lines for comfort." She observes of herself and her fellow riders: "I believe we sought some kind of oblivion. The characters in 'The Tempest' leap from their sinking ship in a 'fever of mad.' "Prior-Palmer's own arguable madness aside, the animals involved are sanely and humanely looked after. She notes that the rules impose a two-hour penalty or race expulsion "if a horse's heart rate remained above 64 beats per minute for a period longer than 45 minutes at the end of each leg," a detail that will become vital later on (but which would be a spoiler to say more about).The camaraderie and competition she experiences, particularly with American front-runner Devan Horn, and the dynamic she establishes with the horses who remind her that "animals were our first teachers" make this memoir a breathtaking ride, rich with "meaning beyond victory vs. loss."
    more
  • Melissa
    January 1, 1970
    Not only is the subject matter of this book fascinating, but the language is beautiful. There are some really gorgeous moments of prose. At times I wanted to hug Lara and sometimes she needed a good smack but ultimately I was always rooting for her.
  • Jemima Pett
    January 1, 1970
    Magical, brilliant, evocative. I've never highlighted so many wondrous passages before.Given Ms Prior-Palmer's self-deprecation of her performance in school, you don't really expect such a wonderfully descriptive, and achingly evocative narrative.  Lara enters the world's toughest horse race on a whim, as she seems to do most things in her short life. Her fellow competitors have been preparing for a year, she barely has a month. She's not even a born horsewoman, although she has ridden a bit, at Magical, brilliant, evocative. I've never highlighted so many wondrous passages before.Given Ms Prior-Palmer's self-deprecation of her performance in school, you don't really expect such a wonderfully descriptive, and achingly evocative narrative.  Lara enters the world's toughest horse race on a whim, as she seems to do most things in her short life. Her fellow competitors have been preparing for a year, she barely has a month. She's not even a born horsewoman, although she has ridden a bit, at weekends when down at the cottage they have near her famous aunt (who's away half the time). So preparation to ride 8 hours a day for two weeks is not founded on a secure base.She combines the unfolding of the race itself with flashbacks of her past, and anecdotes about other people, or writings from Mongolians authors and poets.  It's a charming combination, and it works.Oh, how it works! I can't recall any other book where I've highlighted so many gorgeous turns of phrase.She has a talent for bringing landscape to life on the page like no other I've read. I think the secret of her success is: she lives in the moment. She goes with the flow.  She understands the flow.  Lara is aware of her surroundings, both in the race and at home, whatever forward or back motion it brings. It seems to suit the half-tamed Mongolian horses (about the size of Shetland ponies), and their owners, who recognise her ability to blend with them.  We are treated to pictures of the rest of the competitors; the most hardened, experienced and focused of them is probably least in tune with either their surroundings or the horses.Even the food is interesting. I'm glad I didn't have to eat it.Magical, brilliant, evocative. It's compulsive reading for travellers, lovers of wild spaces, and horse-lovers. Maybe not for gourmands.And I particularly like the inclusion of some recommended reading by Mongolian authors.I wonder if the hardcover edition has photos?
    more
  • T
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 stars rounded up to 3. What an odd little book. In a perfect world, this would have been one of my top reads of the year. It has everything I love: travel, horses, and traveling with horses. However, the writing style just didn't click with me and I never truly felt engaged with the narrative. Don't get me wrong, there are some gems of passages in here. They are, however, the exception and not the rule. One such example is when Lara starts ruminating on why, historically and evolutionary, th 2.5 stars rounded up to 3. What an odd little book. In a perfect world, this would have been one of my top reads of the year. It has everything I love: travel, horses, and traveling with horses. However, the writing style just didn't click with me and I never truly felt engaged with the narrative. Don't get me wrong, there are some gems of passages in here. They are, however, the exception and not the rule. One such example is when Lara starts ruminating on why, historically and evolutionary, there's always been such a special bond between women and horses. She takes the easy way out and parrots Freud in giving an explanation when it is so, so much deeper than that. My theory, and it's just that, a theory born out of being a woman who spent her childhood and teenage years around horses, is that somewhere in the veil of time, women and horses formed a kinship because a) both are social creatures and b) both are forced to deal with the whims of men who dominated over them. Women found freedom on horseback and horses found an ally. They were, in essence, kindred spirits. Dogs may be man's best friend but horses are women's. /soapboxAll in all, I'm scratching my head over what I missed and why everyone is tripping over themselves to praise this book. It left me going "huh" moreso than being heartwarmed.
    more
  • Jane
    January 1, 1970
    I wanted and expected very much to like this, because a story about a long distance horse race in Mongolia is just cool. And the race does sound like an amazing experience, but something about the writing didn't work for me. The tone just sounded very....young, or maybe her self descriptions just reminded me of how I wrote about myself when I had a Livejournal and was preoccupied with telling my own story. This would have been more effective for me with much more focus on the race and less on he I wanted and expected very much to like this, because a story about a long distance horse race in Mongolia is just cool. And the race does sound like an amazing experience, but something about the writing didn't work for me. The tone just sounded very....young, or maybe her self descriptions just reminded me of how I wrote about myself when I had a Livejournal and was preoccupied with telling my own story. This would have been more effective for me with much more focus on the race and less on her teenage identity. It sometimes reads as a kind of fever dream with loosely poetic prose jumping around between the physical experience of the race and the introspective and socially awkward mental space she seems to inhabit regardless of what she's in the middle of doing.tl;dr: this could have been way cooler. I'd still like to ride this race, though.
    more
  • Alison
    January 1, 1970
    This author tries so hard to come across as edgy, philosophical and unique that her story gets lost in the image she’s trying to write herself in, and is lacking in substance.
  • TXGAL1
    January 1, 1970
    ROUGH MAGIC is the debut memoir of Lara Prior-Palmer. The story focuses on her last-minute entry and race in The Mongol Derby of 2013.With the motion of a carefree spinning of a globe and haphazardly pointing to the next place to find adventure, 19 year-old Lara Prior-Palmer clicked on the “flashing” pick me Google tab and applied to enter the “world’s longest and toughest horse race”.The Mongol Derby is a race of endurance run over 1,000 kilometers (621.371 miles) on 25 different semi-wild hors ROUGH MAGIC is the debut memoir of Lara Prior-Palmer. The story focuses on her last-minute entry and race in The Mongol Derby of 2013.With the motion of a carefree spinning of a globe and haphazardly pointing to the next place to find adventure, 19 year-old Lara Prior-Palmer clicked on the “flashing” pick me Google tab and applied to enter the “world’s longest and toughest horse race”.The Mongol Derby is a race of endurance run over 1,000 kilometers (621.371 miles) on 25 different semi-wild horses over a ten-day period. Riders come from all over the world to take on the challenge. They are restricted to the race hours of 7am - 8:30pm and any racers riding outside this time parameter are assessed time penalties on the day following.There are many rules of the race pertaining to rider and horse. The author seems fated to compete in this race. Prior-Palmer enters with just a few weeks left in the application period. Warnings of needed experience, vaccinations, training, to run the race all go unnoticed by the author. The exorbitant entry fee is initially an impediment, but with Prior-Palmer’s usual aplomb she is able to easily overcome this potential roadblock and any other restriction to entry.Lara Prior-Palmer has no fear and an over abundance of innocence and joie de vivre. These attributes work in her favor as she takes on the Mongolian landscape, its grueling race and her stubborn competitors.As Prior-Palmer’s race is recounted, I come to admire the bravery of the writer as it is juxtaposed with the whimsicality of the writing. Much respect is given to one so young on the far side of the world taking on the world’s toughest horse race, alone.The author is my new hero and example. From her I will remember to, even at my age, dare to do something different and unexpected—the end result may be very rewarding, but above all life will have been lived!I thank Catapult publishers for my ARC in exchange for a review. This is my favorite book of 2019 thus far.
    more
  • Elizabeth Bober
    January 1, 1970
    I have mixed feelings about this book. The setting and perspective are great: a memoir by the first female and youngest winner of the Mongol Derby, an endurance horse race. The writer’s style is hit and miss. A little too cursory, too eager to float into lines of poetry when action is needed. My biggest beef is turning the author’s main competition, another young woman and first time racer, into a villain after barely laying eyes on her. This woman’s chief sin being that she arrived prepared, co I have mixed feelings about this book. The setting and perspective are great: a memoir by the first female and youngest winner of the Mongol Derby, an endurance horse race. The writer’s style is hit and miss. A little too cursory, too eager to float into lines of poetry when action is needed. My biggest beef is turning the author’s main competition, another young woman and first time racer, into a villain after barely laying eyes on her. This woman’s chief sin being that she arrived prepared, confident, and ambitious. And so our protagonist hates her. How childish. How petty for a woman who continually portrays herself as independent-minded. Although we know who wins, the ending still feels like a let down.Overall an interesting read but not the riveting horseback adventure I’d hoped for.
    more
  • Pearse Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    Hey, I got this as an ARC and didn't love it. I might write a full review. I actually didn't finish it. It lost steam about 60% of the way through, which is so funny because that's when the competition really ramps up. Prior-Palmer is compared to Annie Dillard and wow that's high praise and I don't think Prior-Palmer knows enough about threading plots and tying aspects together to be in the same boat on the same Pilgrim Creek. Paragraphs in this story end and flatten into other ones, like whitew Hey, I got this as an ARC and didn't love it. I might write a full review. I actually didn't finish it. It lost steam about 60% of the way through, which is so funny because that's when the competition really ramps up. Prior-Palmer is compared to Annie Dillard and wow that's high praise and I don't think Prior-Palmer knows enough about threading plots and tying aspects together to be in the same boat on the same Pilgrim Creek. Paragraphs in this story end and flatten into other ones, like whitewater into still pools to continue the creek metaphor. That doesn't work. Prior-Palmer also hits the risky midline of admitting her inexperience but not interrogating it. Many things are interrogated in this book, but I don't think they were the right ones to select or given the right amount of time. The Derby is deadly, difficult, and under scrutiny: is that discussed? Prior-Palmer places herself in front of predators and disease vectors and sucks it up to "oops": can that be discussed? She very infrequently moves the camera off of her by adding in material from ABC broadcasts, family group texts, etc.: Why is the same effort not put on finding archival material from the people who helped her, both expat and especially Mongolian? I have lived in the countryside for longer than her, and if I were to write about my experience I would follow up with my subjects rather than read Jack Weatherford again, I dunno. You do you, but this did not hold me nor did it demand much from me.
    more
  • Megan Bell
    January 1, 1970
    Rough Magic, the debut memoir from Lara Prior-Palmer, youngest winner and first female winner of the longest, toughest horse race in the world, is indeed spellbinding. How a book can be so heady with poetry and yet make you read sitting straight up with adrenaline is certainly a feat of imaginative writing. Prior-Palmer seems a natural born memoirist, baring her loneliness, competitiveness, and more than occasional ridiculousness so freely you almost feel you’re cantering through the Mongolian w Rough Magic, the debut memoir from Lara Prior-Palmer, youngest winner and first female winner of the longest, toughest horse race in the world, is indeed spellbinding. How a book can be so heady with poetry and yet make you read sitting straight up with adrenaline is certainly a feat of imaginative writing. Prior-Palmer seems a natural born memoirist, baring her loneliness, competitiveness, and more than occasional ridiculousness so freely you almost feel you’re cantering through the Mongolian wilderness beside her, and after reading this astonishing debut, I’m about ready to. Thank you to Catapult for this ARC!
    more
  • Uriel Perez
    January 1, 1970
    'Rough Magic' is a life-affirming read that brims with a boundless sense of wonder. Here, Lara Prior-Palmer recounts her week-long trek across the punishing Mongolian steppe riding the "world's longest and toughest horse race." This is an adventure story just as much as its a journey of self-discovery; a candid, and often humorous, musing on nature, memory and the inescapable desire to be free. This ride feels true and gallops away with your heart.
    more
  • Terri Anderson
    January 1, 1970
    "At the age of nineteen, Lara Prior-Palmer discovered a website devoted to "the world's longest, toughest horse race"--an annual competition of endurance and skill that involves dozens of riders racing a series of twenty-five wild ponies across 1,000 kilometers of Mongolian grassland." Given that I grew up riding horses in northeastern Montana which has a " semi-arid steppe" climate and a population density of 4.6 people per square mile, it is no wonder that this is one of my favorite books. I a "At the age of nineteen, Lara Prior-Palmer discovered a website devoted to "the world's longest, toughest horse race"--an annual competition of endurance and skill that involves dozens of riders racing a series of twenty-five wild ponies across 1,000 kilometers of Mongolian grassland." Given that I grew up riding horses in northeastern Montana which has a " semi-arid steppe" climate and a population density of 4.6 people per square mile, it is no wonder that this is one of my favorite books. I admire the author for the reckless courage to enter a race for which she is totally unprepared and can relate to her doing it. At nineteen that's the sort of thing I might have done if my family background were similar to hers. Lara's love of horses comes through very strongly throughout the book as well as her feelings of awe at the grandeur of the Mongolian countryside through which she rode (and walked). Her personal quirkiness and lack of self-confidence endeared her to me as the race proceeded.
    more
  • Amy Casey
    January 1, 1970
    Lara Prior-Palmer's Rough Magic is a disarmingly contemplative memoir. It is a very satisfying book for two opposing reasons. 1. It is a horse book that is actually about horses in a very major way--the way they move, look, communicate, feel. The horse race referred to in the title encompasses the bulk of the book, and that's what we all truly want if a book has a horse on the cover. 2. The book also is a joy to read because of its human narrator, who treats the story as looking glass, postcard, Lara Prior-Palmer's Rough Magic is a disarmingly contemplative memoir. It is a very satisfying book for two opposing reasons. 1. It is a horse book that is actually about horses in a very major way--the way they move, look, communicate, feel. The horse race referred to in the title encompasses the bulk of the book, and that's what we all truly want if a book has a horse on the cover. 2. The book also is a joy to read because of its human narrator, who treats the story as looking glass, postcard, forecast, and saga. She looks ever inward, sparing us no qualm or thorn as she faces her immediate inner and outer landscapes. It is a quiet, meditative, foggy book. Prior-Palmer lets us get lost with her, and the result is quite lovely, quite true.
    more
  • Seth Turner
    January 1, 1970
    Wow! What an amazing journey. Where to begin? To make this choice to do the Mongolian Derby, shows an adventurous spirit, a determination, and resilience not many people access or even allow themselves to experience it. Through Prior-Palmer’s inner monologues, home memories, humor, and vivid detail of her experiences every step of the way; we share the journey with her. This biography also takes on the identity, in part, of a travel essay/novel with some unbelievable yet very real experiences. L Wow! What an amazing journey. Where to begin? To make this choice to do the Mongolian Derby, shows an adventurous spirit, a determination, and resilience not many people access or even allow themselves to experience it. Through Prior-Palmer’s inner monologues, home memories, humor, and vivid detail of her experiences every step of the way; we share the journey with her. This biography also takes on the identity, in part, of a travel essay/novel with some unbelievable yet very real experiences. Like many pilgrimages that people take, the person who does it learns much more than they realize. Over the seven-day Derby, it is clear from her account that Prior-Palmer is no different. The only difference is that this is a fast paced race on four legs instead of a walk on two. Giving historical and cultural lessons as well as other related anecdotes, she gives a look inward to her processing all that is happening. She also applies her own history with horses to how she sees the experience in front of her often referring to her Aunt Lucinda. One thing that is clear is the clarity that she gains because it is only her and the horses she rides. One of my favorite lines from the book is towards the end, “Do you find yourself searching for the meaning of life? No, not really. I mean, what’s the point when we’re already full of it? You gotta live before you know the reason why, tralalala.” What a wonderful moment of insight and stillness. In the end, aren’t we all a little restless looking for an adventure/journey? Aren’t we all “a pack of racehorses, waiting for the gates to open”?
    more
  • Cori
    January 1, 1970
    I'll never turn down an adventure memoir with a plucky and clueless heroine. Lara takes us on an unforgettable adventure as she participates in this crazy and intense horse race. What I appreciated the most is that she provides great depth beyond her own personal experience. We get to know the crazy cast of racing competitors, and we are drawn in the wilds of Mongolia through her rich observations and descriptions. She provides another rich layer by providing a sketch of the history of the land, I'll never turn down an adventure memoir with a plucky and clueless heroine. Lara takes us on an unforgettable adventure as she participates in this crazy and intense horse race. What I appreciated the most is that she provides great depth beyond her own personal experience. We get to know the crazy cast of racing competitors, and we are drawn in the wilds of Mongolia through her rich observations and descriptions. She provides another rich layer by providing a sketch of the history of the land, use of Mongol ponies for their postal system, and of the infamous Mongol leader,Chinggis Kahn (more commonly known as Genghis Kahn).
    more
  • Linda Hill
    January 1, 1970
    In a moment of rashness, Lara Prior-Palmer enters the Mongol DerbyI almost never read memoir or auto-biographical writing and this fantastic book by Lara Prior-Palmer has served to illustrate what a wealth of delight I am missing. I adored Rough Magic and hurtled through it over a weekend because it held my attention so completely.Part memoir, part travelogue, part history, part coming of age narrative, Rough Magic is totally captivating. Hearing about the race is exciting enough, especially wit In a moment of rashness, Lara Prior-Palmer enters the Mongol DerbyI almost never read memoir or auto-biographical writing and this fantastic book by Lara Prior-Palmer has served to illustrate what a wealth of delight I am missing. I adored Rough Magic and hurtled through it over a weekend because it held my attention so completely.Part memoir, part travelogue, part history, part coming of age narrative, Rough Magic is totally captivating. Hearing about the race is exciting enough, especially with the added peril of Devlan riding ahead of Lara for most of the race, but I hadn’t expected quite such beautiful and atmospheric language. Lara Prior-Palmers prose has the same kind of resonance as Dylan Thomas’ verse and the recurring references to Shakespeare’s The Tempest add to the other-worldy feel of some of the passages. The writing is vital, lively and evocative.I loved the way Lara Prior- Palmer transported me to a life so different from my own. Her naivety afforded a freshness to her descriptions that took me to the heart of Mongolia and the race itself. There are so many aspects of the writing that I want to explore further that great joy and entertainment lasts long after Rough Magic has been read. Save for an afternoon on an Icelandic pony a couple of years ago, it’s about 45 years since I last rode and yet Lara Prior- Palmer’s words brought that connection between human and animal flooding back. Indeed, so vivid are her descriptions that a reader needs to know nothing about riding to be immersed in, and captivated by, this adventure.However, the element I enjoyed the most in Rough Magic was getting to know the author – as much as that is possible, given that she hardly seems to know herself. Her sense of isolation, of always striving for something that is just out of reach, of never really being allowed just to be herself, shines from the page so that it is impossible not to like and admire this incredibly feisty young woman. She made me smile with her ignorance and her vitality. She drops life changing details into her writing almost as asides and Rough Magic has made me admire Lara Prior-Palmer enormously.Having thought I wouldn’t be much interested in Rough Magic, I have finished the book feeling energised, entertained and privilged to have had a glimpse of Lara Prior-Palmer’s personality and experiences. I thought Rough Magic was magnificent and can’t recommend it highly enough.
    more
  • Abigail
    January 1, 1970
    Mixed feelings about this one. At times, the author seems quite flakey, entitled, reckless, but then she will hit you with a gorgeous sentence that is so good you have to write it down. Her allusions to The Tempest don't really seem to work and some of her deep thoughts about space and time get to be a little too much, but her wry observations, sense of humor, and awareness of both the ridiculousness of this venture as well as her desire to win balance it out. It's a fast read and a journey wort Mixed feelings about this one. At times, the author seems quite flakey, entitled, reckless, but then she will hit you with a gorgeous sentence that is so good you have to write it down. Her allusions to The Tempest don't really seem to work and some of her deep thoughts about space and time get to be a little too much, but her wry observations, sense of humor, and awareness of both the ridiculousness of this venture as well as her desire to win balance it out. It's a fast read and a journey worth going on.
    more
  • Marion
    January 1, 1970
    Disappointing, esp. after the rave reviews. Gave up after 200 pages, should have quit sooner. Disjointed sloppy style without any of the dramatic momentum to be expected from a story like this. It’s probably the case that she was just too young to properly appreciate and represent this remarkable experience.
    more
  • Sue
    January 1, 1970
    This was just ok for me. The story is about a nineteen year old girl who signs up to enter "the world's longest, toughest horse race" in Mongolia! Earlier this year I did see something about her winning this race on TV. The main character, Lara, was someone I had a hard time understanding and consequently had a hard time seeing things from her viewpoint. I did like her attitude on winning the race, especially the last leg of her very difficult journey.
    more
  • mike watson
    January 1, 1970
    Exceptional is correct. A well written memoir from this very young woman that captured my interest through every page. Lara tells her story perfectly, with soul and style, and a searching for her own identity. I recommend this book highly. It is an adventure that no one should miss.
    more
  • Leanna
    January 1, 1970
    This young woman writes earnestly, and you turn pages like you're racing to the finish with her. She is humble, and therefore likable, relating her journey with candor. I rarely find nonfiction this exciting. And I was also pleased that it has me reflecting on the past and thinking about the future with a touch more bravery and honesty.
    more
  • Hannah Fenster
    January 1, 1970
    It comes as no surprise that Lara Prior-Palmer, the youngest person ever to win the world’s longest horse race, has a knack for timing. I mean this in two ways. First, at a moment when I find myself constantly confined by media stimulation, this wind-in-your-hair adventure story makes me sigh—cheer!— with relief. Then, there’s the fact that ROUGH MAGIC's well-timed mix of plot and colorful prose quicken my heartbeat again and again like I am the one on horseback. It is intense in its far away-ne It comes as no surprise that Lara Prior-Palmer, the youngest person ever to win the world’s longest horse race, has a knack for timing. I mean this in two ways. First, at a moment when I find myself constantly confined by media stimulation, this wind-in-your-hair adventure story makes me sigh—cheer!— with relief. Then, there’s the fact that ROUGH MAGIC's well-timed mix of plot and colorful prose quicken my heartbeat again and again like I am the one on horseback. It is intense in its far away-ness, and intense in its closeness to home. It is triumphant.
    more
  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    Really excellent memoir about a super cool race I didn't even know existed. I really loved Lara's humor and writing style. Some parts around the middle felt a tad overwritten, but I really enjoyed the journey overall. I recommend it, especially for horse and nature lovers.
    more
  • Janet
    January 1, 1970
    ROUGH MAGIC is full of captivating sentences and a compelling story—I love reading about adventures that I’ve never even thought to imagine.
Write a review