Book Review: The Horse of Selene – Juanita Casey

Posted 5 months ago in Book Review

The Horse of Selene

Juanita Casey

Tramp Press


Juanita Casey’s biography is a rich tapestry of occupations, marriages and rumours that seem impossible to cram into one woman’s life. Casey was an artist, poet, potter, horse breeder, zebra tamer, circus trainer, sailor and a writer, and her 1971 book The Horse of Selene holds a mirror to this fascinating life whilst weaving a ‘fable-like’ tale of love and pain.

The book is set on the remote Island of Aranchilla. Yet this amalgamation of the Aran and Achill islands has not forged a rural idyll. Instead, Casey deftly illuminates a darkly claustrophobic undercurrent lying beneath an ostensibly beautiful island.

God-fearing farmer Miceal, tied like a ‘dark standing stone’ to Aranchilla, becomes entangled in the lives of summer visitors, particularly the alluring Selene. The collision between Miceal’s grounded Island life and the enticing adventure that these visitors promise, encapsulates the oppressive grip of traditional Ireland. At one point Casey zoomorphoses the Island as the wild horses that dominate it: “Cream froth blew up the shore and lay on the sandy neck of the beach, laced with a mane of bubbles.” Aranchilla is wild and majestic, but also a place to be wary of.

Casey describes her own writing as a ‘fountain of words’, and The Horse of Selene is full of these fluid and glimmering descriptions. Undoubtedly a book that’s wholly deserving of rediscovery.

Words: Holly Gash


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