Ferdinand Mount Man Who Rode Ampersand

ISBN 13: 9780099285984

Man Who Rode Ampersand

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9780099285984: Man Who Rode Ampersand

Aldous (Gus) Cotton—the asthmatic hero of Ferdinand Mount’s critically acclaimed series A Chronicle of Modern Twilight, including his recent Booker Prize–nominated novel Fairness—has a problem: Its name is Harry, a carouser, an amateur jockey, a compulsive gambler, a charmer with an unfortunate penchant for excess. He also happens to be Gus’s father. Dead set on detaching himself from any paternal and all real-life responsibilities, Harry begins his descent from the heady realm of the racing set—which afforded him the sweet experience of riding Ampersand, the legendary Gold Cup winner, and champagne by the magnum—to an unglamorous but not undramatic existence in a grim world of lice-infected brothels and gambling houses. At the same time, Harry is thrown into the maelstrom of the Second World War, where comedy meets tragedy to ill-fated effect. In all, Harry’s career vibrantly reflects the downward spiral of a once-vigorous nation, and leaves the sometimes amused and frequently appalled Gus trying very hard to love his father.

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From Publishers Weekly:

Mount, who is editor of the Times Literary Supplement in London, is perhaps best known as an author of substantial nonfiction works (The Theatre of Politics; The British Constitution Now) but his fiction (Fairness; Jem (and Sam)) has been nominated for the Booker and won a Hawthornden prize. The present wonderfully comic and rueful novel is the first in a five-volume fictional history of the 20th century called A Chronicle of Modern Twilight (Fairness, which is the final volume, is the only other installment published in the U.S. so far). Mount tells the picaresque tale of Harry Cotton, a jockey who for one glorious moment in the 1930s rode a champion horse and always thereafter saw that moment as a touchstone in an otherwise rather tattered life. Harry runs afoul in turn of a wealthy owner and an unctuous bookie and is reduced to bartending in a seedy Soho "club" (read: brothel). He goes with a Jewish lover to prewar Germany; when war comes, he is drafted into the army and fights briefly in the North African desert before being invalided out with TB. He then goes to Ireland to enlist workers for the British war effort. The story is told partly through the eyes of his loving but despairing son, mostly from Harry's point of view, but no matter who is narrating, the period dialogue is spot-on, and a range of magically eccentric characters make appearances. In its sense of place, period and social interaction, Mount's work is like a kind of plebeian Anthony Powell saga absolute catnip for Anglophiles.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:

Harry Cotton, a bounder who has spent his days gambling, drinking, and avoiding responsibility, is here seen alternately through the eyes of his jaded adult son and through his own eyes as he goes from his prewar glory days as a jockey and a bartender through a slow deterioration after the war. In between, he pursues a doomed love affair to Nazi Germany and returns to marriage and fatherhood in England. When war breaks out, Harry parlays his modest fame and street smarts into an army commission, then sees action in Italy until he is sidelined with tuberculosis. Upon release from the hospital, he reenlists and is dispatched to Ireland, where he serves as both a spy and a recruiter of Irish labor to help with the British war effort. In his later years, as he watches old friends fall into disrepute or die young, he dines out on his fading reputation as the jockey who rode the prize-winning horse, Ampersand, while his long-suffering son watches him weasel out of gambling debts and taxes. With a touch more mystery and intrigue, Harry Cotton would be right at home in the pages of a Dick Francis or John le Carre novel. Initially published in 1975 as the first book in what became the "Chronicle of Modern Twilight," this is another enjoyable read from Mount, editor of the Times Literary Supplement and author of such works as Jem (and Sam). Recommended for most public library collections. Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Kingston, Ont.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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