Friday, September 18, 2009
The Final Confession of Mabel Stark - Robert Hough
Blurb from Amazon
In the 1910s and '20s, during the golden age of the big top, Mabel Stark was the superstar of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, and one of America's most eccentric celebrities. A tiny, curvaceous Kentucky blonde in a white leather bodysuit, Mabel was brazen, sexually adventurous, and suicidally courageous. The Final Confession of Mabel Stark is Robert Hough's brilliant, highly acclaimed novelization of her fantastic life. It is 1968 — Mabel is just turning eighty and is about to lose her job at Jungleland, a Southern California game park. Devastated by the loss of her cats, she looks back on her life and her five husbands: the fifth would one day be tragically mauled by her one true love, her ferocious yet amorous 550-pound Bengal tiger Rajah. Starting with her escape from a mental institution to begin her circus career as a burlesque dancer, Mabel's exquisitely voiced confession is a live wire of dark secrets, broken dreams, and comic escapades. It is a brilliant, exhilarating story of an America before television and movies, when the spectacle of the circus reigned and an unlikely woman captured the public imagination with her singular charm and audacity.
Well... it was different...
I don't know if I'd go so far as to say I'd enjoyed this book but it has stayed with me for two days now since I finished reading it. I had to wait to write this review because I wasn't sure how I felt about and needed to let it sink in for a few days.
First off I didn't have the same experience I find most people had while reading this book. Some of the words I saw in reference to this book were fascinating, ribald, fun, humorous and compelling... huh. It's times like these when I wonder if I'm missing something. Personally, I had a few problems with the book that kept me from really enjoying it. First off it was Mabel. I just plan didn't like her. I realize the grit it must have taken to be a woman in a typically male driven profession in those days but she was really abrasive and when I wasn't out and out disliking her I was feeling sorry for her. To me she lead a very lonely and sad life. Everytime things were starting to look up for her if something didn't come along and ruin it for her she'd make sure she ruined it for herself. Which I think was part of the reason I disliked her so much.
I also found the book got bogged down quite a bit in the middle and would drag on with paragraph after paragraph of Mabel listing which city she went to next and when she went there and maybe a sentence or two about something that may have happened with her act. I didn't find any part of the book fun although certain parts were interesting I don't even know if I'd go so far as to call it fascinating mostly I just found it frustrating.
However, I do find that anytime I read a book that is based on a true story or a real person quite often that book stays with me for a long time. This book is no exception the author did a fabulous job of creating a voice for Mabel and I kept forgetting that a man had actually written this book and not Mabel herself. Over the last couple of days I've had a hard time getting Mabels voice out of my head and I've even been rather melancholy at times when I think about Mabel and everything she went through in her life. Which is why it's hard for me to give a grade to this book - I didn't like Mabel and didn't really get any fun out of this book but it's been staying with me day in and day out not to mention I finished it so I must have been enjoying it on some level but at the same time I don't want to go near this book ever again...