Cover Image: Rough Magic

Rough Magic

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Member Reviews

Rough Magic; Riding the world’s wildest horse race by Lara Prior-Palmer is the true story of Lara's experience of riding in the Mongol Derby, which is the world's toughest horse race.  Every August, riders have to ride wild ponies over a 1,000 km course within 10 days.

This is a fascinating read, and takes you day by day through her adventure!  It is an epic ride, and is very atmospheric. 

I hadn't heard of this race before, but was hanging on to the book, wanting to know what would happen next.  You're told the race outcome early on, but not how it happened, and that's what kept me turning pages!  Literally a wild ride!

 Rough Magic  was published on 6th June 2019 and is available from  Amazon ,  Waterstones  and  Bookshop.org .

I'm afraid I couldn't find a link for you to follow Lara Prior-Palmer.

I was given this book in exchange for an unbiased review, so my thanks to NetGalley and to  Ebury Publishing .
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This book was published in 2019, 6 years after Lara Prior-Palmer won the Mongol Derby. And 3 years after she had cancer. To date this is her only book, but her voice is such, that I expect her to write more.
Her writing shows the maturity of those 6 years since she competed and her extensive studies at Stanford and beyond of Mongol history and culture; and Persian poetry and language.
The book is scattered with quotes from poets. Philosophers and Shakespeare as the book she took to read, during those mad 7 days of her life, was The Tempest. An she often compares her Derby experiences to those happening in the play quoting Prospero.
The first chapters set the scene of a madcap young girl with too much energy and an uncertain path to her future.  
Not university then but an adventure, and an aunt with extensive horse experience (see the discussions about eventing and the Olympics), and a rather unusual family background.
She turns up for the race grossly under-equipped even forgetting her toothbrush, but through the generosity of other competitors, most of whom dropped out for a number of reasons, and the Derby staff, the press followers, and of course, the local,people she encounters, she struggles through. The grand under-dog that ends up winning by default. A great British tradition that she encapsulates to the extreme.
A book that needs to be read by all teenage girls but mothers beware in case they want to emulate her!
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I think that the students in our school library need to hear lots of diverse voices and read stories and lives of many different kinds of people and experiences. When I inherited the library it was an incredibly sanitised space with only 'school readers' and project books on 'the railways' etc. Buying in books that will appeal to the whole range of our readers with diverse voices, eclectic and fascinating subject matter, and topics that will intrigue and fascinate them was incredibly important to me.
This is a book that I think our senior readers will enjoy very much indeed - not just because it's well written with an arresting voice that will really keep them reading and about a fascinating topic - but it's also a book that doesn't feel worthy or improving, it doesn't scream 'school library and treats them like young reading adults who have the right to explore a range of modern diverse reads that will grip and intrigue them and ensure that reading isn't something that they are just forced to do for their English project - this was a solid ten out of ten for me and I'm hoping that our students are as gripped and caught up in it as I was. It was one that I stayed up far too late reading and one that I'll be recommending to the staff as well as our senior students - thank you so much for the chance to read and review; I really loved it and can't wait to discuss it with some of our seniors once they've read it too!
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It's nice to read a memoir that highlights the wildness of entering a horse race that would be deemed too dangerous for any of us mere mortals.

A very interesting read and if you like the idea of reading about the dangers of endurance racing then have a read.

I was provided a free ARC from NetGalley and the publisher in return for my honest review.
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I galloped through this, and didn't want it to end. 

I am a horse nerd, and would have happily read it just for the equestrian adventure, but it is far more. It is an inner journey too, a voyage to the very essence of wilderness. The Mongolian landscape is a vast space where you are just a speck with nothing around you but distance. The horses are Lara's main companions, as removed from human concerns as the land itself. She rides a different one for each leg of the journey, sometimes several in one day, randomly picked from whatever the herders have available. Some are co-operative; some are slugs; some are mad. All are magnificently themselves, creatures of the moment, full of physicality and instinct, a brief contact with Other. 

The story, of course, follows familiar patterns. Lara is an experienced and competitive rider, as you might guess from her surname, but in this race she is the outsider. She entered on a whim, is impulsive and badly prepared, and her rivals have considerable endurance experience. It's no secret that she wins the race and sets world records as well, so the story follows the classic underdog arc. But that's hardly what matters. The nature of the journey - and its delight - is about this strange inner time, living moment by moment in wildness, on semi-wild horses, and the way this author can insert us so perfectly into every heartbeat of the experience, in language that is as direct and strong as her spirit. ‘He’s in tearaway mode. The wind blows hard and blocks our ears. His legs throttle as if dying to catch up with themselves, hooves flattening thousands of grass stems a second. He is a madman awakened. I love it, him, his intention.’

Her humour is incredibly likable too. Here’s just one example: she describes mutton pastries that are ‘so hardy you could send them round the world in the post’. When I finished, I went immediately on line to see if she'd written more books. She hasn't, yet. But I hope she can be persuaded to.
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Catching up with a very belated ARC, and this was an unexpected joy to read!

19-year-old Lara applies to enter a 1000 mile horse race, across Mongolia on a whim, at the very last minute. Her energy & enthusiasm shine through, and her appreciation for how ridiculous the whole thing was made me laugh.

It’s a quick, light read, sometimes overwritten, but I enjoyed her musings & admired her scatty determination. Plus, I’ve come away with some Mongolian authors to investigate. Thoroughly enjoyable.
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An interesting and beautifully-written book.  Just the thing to transport the reader far away from the stresses and anxieties of lockdown.
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A lovely read.  I have grown up around horses and it was so lovely to read about something that is close to my families heart.  I loved Lara's drive and determination.  Well worth a read.
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Horses, Mongolia, longest race won by the youngest British women? Brilliant. A great read. Bonkers, crazy, erratic and gripping? Yep you have to read this.
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I initially requested this title for my daughter who is a bit of an adventurer (cross-country skiing and camping in Svalvard, the trans-Siberian express with detours in Mongolia etc.)  She found it a fascinating and inspiring read,  well written and thought it painted a picture of the experiences,  good and bad,  she had along the way.
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Well written, but not that exciting unless you are horse mad (preferably National Hunt), or have an interest in Genghis Khan's history.

Worth looking at snippets of the Mongol Derby on YouTube as well. You can see the author occasionally!
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Rough Magic has been described as a mix between Educated and Wild, and while I haven’t read Wild, this book definitely reminded me of Educated, and gripped me just as much.  

Lara’s almost spontaneous decision to enter the Mongol Derby leads to a 10 day experience which is part thrilling adventure, part travelogue, part personal diary.  The book reveals her to be both disarmingly unselfconscious and acutely aware of feeling like an outsider; at home, in her family, in the race, in Mongolia.  

We know from the outset that she wins, so the tension and pull of the narrative don’t come from edge of your seat competition, but rather from her engrossing and well paced narrative.  She switches between vivid descriptions of the physicality of race, reflections on her surroundings, her life at home, her ongoing yet vague health problems, memories of school and encounters with local people, other riders and race officials.  

This may sound a little confusing, but it isn’t; Prior-Palmer’s distinctive voice and tightly controlled prose made this a fantastic read.
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This is a book that will split opinion, it’s rather boring and at times I wondered why I persisted with it to the end.. But I did, well it’s about a very very long horse race across the steppes in Mongolia. There is only one character Lara the rider. And her different horses. I wouldn’t recommend this book.
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I never think memoirs that interesting but this held real promise in its synopsis which held well at the beginning. A very unique setting and a challenge I have never heard of. I thought the author set the scene really well - I can just imagine my father (like hers) walking round telling my mum I wasn't going to do something for my mum just to go on doing whatever she was doing. In fact I think she lost her way after the race started. At that point it simply became a series of repeating events sleep / ride/ eat the odd getting lost into the bargain. The ending felt like a real anti-climax . In the end I cam away just a little disappointed.
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If this wasnt a true story I would say it was unrealistic.
A bored and lost teenager takes a last minute chance and rushes into the worlds toughest horse race with no training or thought.
Her descriptions of the surroundings were incredible , I could picture every tiny detail.
Some of the writing and the quotes she used could be some what convoluted and pulled me out of the story but ultimately it was a thrilling  journey with such a determined young lady.
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I couldn't put this book down and read in one sitting! It had a lovely fast pace and was an enthralling account of a real life adventure. The bits I enjoyed the most were the race, the horses and the incredible scenery, I really felt like I was there. It does jump about a bit but this didn't take away from my enjoyment of the book.
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I really enjoyed this memoir of Lara's journey to Mongolia and her entry and competing in the tough horse race across vast distances on strange ponies. She was so unprepared and ill equipped (apart from being a brilliant rider) and never really seemed to beleive that she could win the race. It's very entertaining and interesting even if you know almost nothing about horses, like me. With thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunityto read this book.
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A wonderful book which I have thoroughly enjoyed.  She is a great writer, the story is beautifully told, but she has a self depracating wit, which I found to be enjoyable.  
The journey has taught me things about Mongolia that I had no idea about, and it is aways good to read and educate yourself.  
The horses had a mind of their own and  I liked the one that was a young horse in old fur!  Aren't we all?
A beautiful book that will stay with me for a long time. 
Thank you Penguin for publishing it.
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Coming of age story.    Too much detail in some areas, and not always smoothly written.  You'd probably have to have an interest in the subject matter, to keep you interested right to the end.   If not, some parts are a little boring.
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Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to review. I know little about horses but thoroughly enjoyed this memoir by Lara Prior Palmer. She is an amazing young woman, yet is very self deprecating and humble. It takes a great deal of courage to ride through Mongolia for ten days after spending the first eighteen years of your life in London. She writes beautifully , exploring her feelings honestly ,going from the thought she wouldn’t last three days to finding a determination to win. I was left wondering how she has followed on from this experience, I understand she has been ill and is hopefully recovered.
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