The Man Who Rode Ampersand by Ferdinand Mount

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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.

About Ferdinand Mount

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Ferdinand Mount is a Sunday Times columnist and Editor of the TLS .
Published September 4, 1975 by Chatto & Windus. 256 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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The picture that emerges is of a semi-dashing adventurer who comes to debatable maturity during the pre-WWII years, when he gains limited celebrity as the amateur jockey briefly entrusted with the valuable racehorse Ampersand, before tending bar at the moderately lurid Pyjama Club, romancing a fe...

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Publishers Weekly

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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.

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