The Horses


ISBN: 978-1-921924-85-9 Format: 288pp Rights: All rights: Transit Lounge

This project has been assisted by the Australian government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.


On the outskirts of Sydney, a boys’ boarding school prides itself on the horses it keeps. David, a gifted working class student, receives a scholarship to attend. At the same time Gregory, a new master, is appointed. Both soon learn, from their different perspectives, that what is said bears little relation to what is done. The school isolates itself from the outside world and over the course of several months of rain, the atmosphere inside the school becomes increasingly lawless and violent. School buildings slip away in floods. Underlying differences between various parties in the school turn into open conflicts, and the school community begins breaking up. These tensions are focussed in the conflict between two masters, Val and Mr C. These two men loathe one another, and both recruit boys in the war of ideas they are waging.
The Horses seems unique in Australian literature, exploring with great subtlety the complex way in which class can perpetuate itself through the education of its children. Reminiscent of J. G. Ballard’s High Rise, set in an apartment complex designed to isolate its residents from the outside world, and Patrick White’s writing in its satirical impulse leavened by compassion for the individual, Lane’s new novel is never anything less than startlingly fresh and original.

‘A beautifully crafted novel on life in a boarding school, a culture dominated by rules of religion and by horsemanship as a way of training boys to be men. With humour and narrative tension Lane shows how cruelty grows in institutions if they are insulated, their leaders becoming pompous and self-satisfied. The Horses superbly illustrates the difficulty of blowing a whistle on such places let alone escaping from them. ‘Stuart Rees, Founder, Sydney Peace Foundation.

William Lane lives in the Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia. He shares his life with his librarian partner and his three teenage children. He is the author of four other novels published by Transit Lounge. His short story collection, Small Forest, was a finalist in the inaugural Carmel Bird Digital Literary Award, and was published online in 2018.

A clever study in absurdity, The Horses by William Lane is an unusual piece of Australian literature that unpacks notions of class, ideology, religion and education. Set in a boarding school on Sydney’s outskirts, the novel features young men who wear armour for uniforms (including helmets, breastplates and chain metal gloves), teachers who care more the school’s reputation and horses than its pupils, and school days that are marked more by equine-related activities than lessons.

Monique Mulligan,

As two school houses slide into the flooded creek, horses escape and turn savage, boys run wild at night, a plague of vermin breaks out and respected masters resign, a catastrophic ending seems imminent. Lane, however, is too sure of his subject to go all that way. Self-interest, tradition, prejudice and forgetfulness triumph among the regrouped band of masters. The institution, indifferent to those it purports to teach, save as they represent another series of family dynasties, survives. The Horses is an acrid satire, but a strange one in that Lane realises how untouched by satire, let alone scandal, such a place can be …this is a novel that revels in risks and delivers rewards of an altogether less conventional kind

Peter Pierce, The Australian, May 16 2015