BON MARCHE by Chet Hagan


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A long, sluggish historical (first in a proposed series) about a young man who heads west and establishes a dynasty among the 19th-century horsy set. Charles Dupree is an orphan leading a rough-and-tumble life on the streets of Paris when he decides to join the navy and see the world, ending up at age 16 (in 1781) watching the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. Beckoned by that fresh green breast of the new world, he deserts and wanders around Virginia (now calling himself Charles Dewey) before being taken in by George Statler, a gentleman horse-breeder. Quicker than you can say ""neigh!"", he marries George's youngest daughter, Martha, sires a brood of kids, and then decides to go west for--literally--greener pastures in Nashville. Martha dies along the way, but Tennessee agrees with Charles. He marries the luscious Mattie Jackson, builds an enormous estate (romantically calling it non MarchÉ or Good Bargain), and has even more children, including an illegitimate one by his black slave mistress. There are nods here to the politics of the 1800's (Andrew Jackson swaggers in and out, and Dupree/Dewey ends up freeing his slaves); but author Hagan is mainly interested in the almighty Horse, and thus one must watch the development of Bon MarchÉ into one of the leading stud farms in the country: ""The conversation--was it inevitable?--turned to racehorses."" When Dupree dies in 1845 at age 80, he leaves 7 children, 11 grandchildren, and 23 great-grandchildren to carry on an endless-seeming saga that will no doubt culminate on Derby Day, 1990. With dialogue straight out of a Bicentennial play (""My pardon, sir, but what town is this?"" ""What town? This, young sir, is Williamsburg"") and beloved thoroughbreds coming out of the woodwork, this is for only the most devoted horse-lovers.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1988
Publisher: Tor--dist. by St. Martin's