Experience the sheer thrill and joy of national hunt racing as an American novelist follows a select group of leading horses and their Irish trainers on their annual pilgrimage to the Cheltenham Festival, in this evocative book on the jumps and the Irish love of horse racing.
The last thing Bill Barich expected when he left California for a holiday in London was to fall in love - and yet he did, with a charming Irish woman. This led to Dublin becoming his home from home. 'I had friends who thought I was being rash or just plain foolish,' he writes, 'but trust and conviction grow if real love is in the mix.' His leap-of-faith left him slightly unmoored, adrift in a new city; so to anchor himself he began visiting the local betting shops to play the horses.
Barich came to share Ireland's passion for the National Hunt. He even felt a kinship for the chasers and hurdlers who 'hang for a half-second in a cloud of uncertainty' every time they jump. That passion revealed to him a great deal about Irish culture, immediate and unvarnished, beyond any touristy stereotypes.
So Barich wanted to go deeper. He spent a season - the season of Best Mate's third Gold Cup bid - with the leading Irish trainers, jockeys and horses, charting their progress on the road to their annual tilt against the British at the Cheltenham Festival. Here such major players as Jessica Harrington, Michael Hourigan, Paul Carberry, and Barry Geraghty are captured as never before, with Barich following the caravan from the humble races at Thurles to the glories of the Hennessy at Leopardstown.
Here, too, are the big horses - Florida Pearl, Beef Or Salmon, and the quirky Moscow Flyer, who never loses except when he beats himself. A Fine Place to Daydream is a beautifully written elegy to a vanishing way of life. It will reveal an Ireland that is largely hidden to visitors, and will be a timeless account of what promises to be a vintage racing season.
Bill Barich has lived in Northern California for most of his life. His first book, Laughing in the Hills, a classic account of racetrack life, was hailed by Sports Illustrated as one of the 100 best sports books of all-time and was serialized in The New Yorker, where Barich was a staff writer for many years, contributing both fiction and non-fiction. His honours include a Guggenheim Fellowship and inclusion in Best American Short Stories. He is a Literary Laureate of the San Francisco Public Library and currently resides in Dublin.