This vibrant and moving fictional autobiography begins in 1968. Mabel is turning 80 and is about to lose her job. Faced with the loss of her beloved cats, she looks back on her life, her escapades and tragedies, her love affairs with tigers and men. She confronts her darkest secrets, her guilt at committing "the worst thing one person can do to another". Now, with the end of life in sight, there is one thing above all else she needs to do. Mabel wants to confess.
Exuberant and inventive, The Final Confession of Mabel Stark transports its readers to the carnival world of the Big Top to an age before cinema and television, when circus performers were superstars.
©2001 Robert Hough; (P)2004 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
"Robert Hough pulls together fact and fiction to unfurl a life that invites sheer, slack-jawed fascination." (Time)
"A marvelous debut narrated with delicious humour and warmth. Just about perfect. One of the most entertaining novels in many a year." (Kirkus)
"Listeners are treated to Betty Bobbitt's performance of the indomitable, unconventional Mabel Stark....Bobbitt's raspy voice and full-throated chuckle perfectly draw Mabel's sassy attitude, complete with period diction, circus lore, and Kentucky twang." (AudioFile)
This book is absolutely fabulous! The development of the protagonist, Mary/Mabel is cleverly crafted, taking the listener on a journey of emotions towards her of innocence, admiration, pity, elation, fear, and pride. By the time you're half way through this title, you feel as if Mabel is your own long-lost great-aunt! The circuses of the 1920s and 30s must have been incredible and seeing circus life through Mabel's eyes gave it an intimate touch. The narrator plays a large part in the success of this story, in my opinion, with her intonations and amazing accent! I have to admit to sitting in my car, in the garage, long after arriving home in order to hear the end of a section! My Book of the Year!
This book has long been a favourite of mine and I have read it probably three times in print so I was rather apprehensive to try the audio version. We've all had experience of a terrible narrator mangling a beloved book, haven't we? I need not have worried. In fact Betty Bobbit's performance - for it is a performance rather than bare narration - adds so much to the depth and characterisation of the story that I will probably not go back to the print version. And what a story it is - madness, murder, maulings; typhoid, terror and tiger sex, all set in the American circus in its "golden age" of the early twentieth century. What more could anyone want? The fact that this is a true story just makes it more fascinating. In fact this book, together with "Water For Elephants" by Sara Gruen, has made me eager to read more about the history of the circus. I absolutely unreservedly recommend this audio book as one of the best uses for anyone's credit. Raaaawrr!
"A fun book perfectly narrated!"
For the first hour I was convinced this was an autobiography read by the author! I had to double check to see it was fiction written by a man. The "voice" of the writer and the voice of the narrator are perfectly matched for this fictional account of the real "lady with the tigers." It's rather raunchy, much as if it were written by the Mae West contemporary that Mabel Stark was.
In addition, it reflects an empathy with animals that made it a perfect follow up to "Animals in Translation" which I read last week. When Stark was training tigers she had no models to follow, and no psych books to read, just pure instinct and self-preservation.
"Couldn't stop listening"
What an incredible idea... to take the known events from the life of an historic figure and, through research, empathy and imagination, create a novel that reads as though it were that figure’s autobiography. This is what Robert Hough has done with great success in “The Final Confession Of Mabel Stark.”
Stark, as you may be aware, was a circus superstar back in the 1910’s and 1920’s. She was a sensation with an act in which she, a tiny blond woman, wrestled a 500 pound tiger.
Working with tigers is a hazardous undertaking. So is setting out on your life adventure as an uneducated orphan. Both left huge scars on Mabel Stark. These scars, emotional and physical, create the theme of the book. With each trauma, Mabel learned more and grew as a person – at least the fictional Mabel did – and for that reason one has to cheer for her and ultimately empathize with her final heart break.
One also has to cheer for Mr. Hough whose visual metaphors, colorful ‘Kentuckyisms’ and ear for dialog created such a compelling book. The tale is incredibly plausible and the telling so convincing that you believe it is coming from the mouth of Mabel Stark – or that Mr. Hough spent years training big cats with a tent show.
Big applause is also due to Betty Bobbit, the actress whose reading brings Mabel to life so vividly. She was entirely believable as an old woman, born in Kentucky, looking back and examining the events and the emotions of a very tough and a very remarkable life.
A warning: Some people see a colorful dust jacket and a book about the circus and assume that it’s a book for children. It’s not. This book is fairly explicit in the way it deals with sex and while that shouldn’t be a problem for most adults, I would certainly not recommend it for the nursery.
"Reader was fantastic !"
Entertaining, Funny, Enchanting
Mable Stark, it was her biography
All of it
This reader was spellbinding. Could have done with out a little of the sexual content, didn't add anything to the story, but it entire book was delightful.
"One of the Best"
As an English professor, I've read many novels. This one, which I had never heard of, surprised me. It was wonderful, and I loved Betty Bobbitt's voice! I highly recommend it.
"could not stop listening"
I loved, loved, loved this book. I was listening to it while driving across several states, and it was painful to have to stop to eat or sleep, because that meant not knowing what happened next in the story. Will listen to it again.
"an interesting romp thru 20's and 30's Circus"
Yes, there were parts that dragged a bit, but then, this is a fictionalized bio of a real person. I could not put it down. I thought it was quite well done and would like more on the subject.
"The Final Confessions of Mabel Stark"
Fantastic reader in Betty Bobbitt and a fascinating story!
"Amazing lacking in worthwhile content"
My wife selected this book based on a single 5.0 ranking. After 7 hours of listening to nothing interesting, I asked her what was she thinking. I persisted through the whole 14 hours and found less than 5 to 10 minutes of what I would call thought provoking content. One might think that a story of a woman who sleeps (and more) with a special tiger, has worked as a nurse and a burlesque dancer as well as a tiger trainer, who has been wrongly committed to an insane asylum, and who has had 5 husbands and much fewer divorces, would be hard to put down. This author managed to make this sequence of unlikely events seem mundane. If you are interested in how lions and tigers are trained and about the life of circus folks, the detailed descriptions may be of great interest. If you are interested in human to human interactions, in admirable characters or even despicable characters, then you should look elsewhere. The main character and story teller, Mabel Stark, never developed a sense of admiration or interest or any reaction at all in me for her and her life. The book is just a sequence of events with no character depth to speak of. On top of the lackluster story and writing, the narrator was poor. Her grossly exaggerated attempt at a rural Southern accent (Kentucky twang) was very annoying. Having spent many years in Kentucky and all my life in the south, I know what Southern acents sound like and this narrator does not approach any I have heard. A quick Google search reveals my suspicion that the narrator is not from the rural south, in fact she is from Philadelphia. Enough said. Furthermore, her attempt at a sassy old lady voice is equally annoying. Her interpretations of male and non-southern voices were much more believable. Why am I spending so much time on this review? Fourteen hours are too much to waste when there are so many great audio books out there (see my other reviews). Hopefully the minutes I needed to write this will save you hours.
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