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Uršuľa Kovalyk

The Equestrienne

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 Translated by Julia and Peter Sherwood

Shortlisted for the Anasoft Litera Prize

‘This little book – it is only 80 pages long – packs a punch beyond its size [...] Her riotous, funny and painful parable is of a country and a girl in the throes of a revolution, of order turned upside-down.’ - Marta Dziurosz, European Literature Network

‘Powerful... an enjoyable read.’ - Joseph Surtees, STORGY


It is 1984 and a small town somewhere in the east of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic is in the firm grip of totalitarianism. Unruly and sickly Karolína is growing up in an all-female household including her hot-blooded, knife-wielding grandmother.
Repelled by her mum’s serial love affairs Karolína runs away and stumbles upon a riding school on the edge of town. There she befriends Romana, a girl with one leg shorter than the other, and Matilda, a rider and trainer who helps the two girls overcome their physical limitations. Together they found a successful trick-riding team and soon it seems that half flags, mills and scales are not the only tricks flashing like blades up her sequinned sleeve as Karolína explores Pink Floyd and smoking, and discovers her knack for seeing deep into others’ souls.

The fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 and the subsequent arrival of capitalism threatens to destroy the riding school. The team has to turn professional. But in a sport of perfect scores is there still room for Romana and Karolína...?

The Equestrienne is a poetic, caustic coming-of-age novel about the desire of one young girl to realise her dreams before and after the Velvet Revolution; it is a celebration of friendship between women and also a bitter acknowledgement that greed and the desire for power can destroy any relationship.


Uršuľa Kovalyk (1969) is a fiction writer and playwright. She is the co-founder and director of Theatre Without a Home, which works with the homeless and the disabled. She is a leading voice in the contemporary feminist literary discourse in Slovakia. Her work focuses on female characters often living unfulfilled and austere lives under the pressure of a patriarchal society, and more recently, on environmental issues and aging. Her works have been translated into nine languages. She has published plays, novels, and several collections of short stories. Her collection The Night Circus and Other Stories was published by Parthian in 2019.