THE PEMBROKE COLORS by Stephen Longstreet


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A showy, high-tailed portrait--from the Civil War to the early 1930s--of a gallantly gallivanting, idiosyncratic breeder of horses, the patriarch of an old Virginia family of ""gentry gone to seed."" Major Tjaden Pembroke doesn't think much of the Civil War (he ""collects"" horses for J. E. B. Stuart and gets his uniform mussed); but later, in Kansas with a string of horses, trading along the way, he meets feisty Molly and brings his bride home to Virginia. And while Molly bears kids (son Holly, daughter Sarah) and whips the fallow acres of Pembroke Hall into shape (she raises hogs for a profitable pork business), Tjaden goes after his dream of a great Pembroke horse to start a stable: he hits the gypsy-track circuit; he bluffs, deals, uses imaginative skulduggery; and eventually there's the dark-of-the-moon mating of the fine Pembroke mare Fiona with the neighbor's stallion Lancelot (whose stud fee can't be extracted from Molly's tight purse). But the Major also finds his other great love on the horse circuit: handsome, lusty Diana du Bols. And while Fiona bears Galahad--who'll win the Derby at Churchill Downs--the human Pembrokes will also mate and multiply: Holly marries Easterner Ginny, and their three boys grow up and out (one will die in World War I, one will be a stolid lawyer, the third a pilot/inventor). Time passes; horses are destroyed by disease; land slips away to a speculator; the Major's women die; the Major himself painfully nurses his memories and dreams. And, in an implausible but attractively sentimental epilogue, a young rodeo rider (a descendant of the Tjaden/Diana union) revives the Major's Derby dreams. With a cheerfully loping narration, salty talk, and the smells and sounds of the track--this is solid bay-rum entertainment, and the best Longstreet in quite some time.

Pub Date: May 27th, 1981
Publisher: Putnam