Friday, April 26, 2013

From My Journal: Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand

Inspired by my many book journals, this feature spotlights books I've read and loved in the past that I wish to bring to your attention.

Blurb: Seabiscuit was one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. But his success was a surprise to the racing establishment, which had written off the crooked-legged racehorse with the sad tail. Three men changed Seabiscuit’s fortunes:

Charles Howard was a onetime bicycle repairman who introduced the automobile to the western United States and became an overnight millionaire. When he needed a trainer for his new racehorses, he hired Tom Smith, a mysterious mustang breaker from the Colorado plains. Smith urged Howard to buy Seabiscuit for a bargain-basement price, then hired as his jockey Red Pollard, a failed boxer who was blind in one eye, half-crippled, and prone to quoting passages from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Over four years, these unlikely partners survived a phenomenal run of bad fortune, conspiracy, and severe injury to transform Seabiscuit from a neurotic, pathologically indolent also-ran into an American sports icon.

Author Laura Hillenbrand brilliantly re-creates a universal underdog story, one that proves life is a horse race.

My Review: (With horse racing's Triple Crown beginning next week, I found this to be a timely choice. This is exactly what I wrote in my book journal dated 5/13/05 immediately after finishing the book.) I am so in love with this book that it has become a part of me. Reading it, I was in the 1930s Depression, I was at the racetrack watching some of the greatest horse races in our history. There is great sadness and tragedy, amazing triumphs, a great love between men and horse, intrique (w/Seabiscuit's look-alike Grog). It is a Cinderella story of 4 creatures, united for a brief but magical period of time, as they spark the imagination of an entire country that is looking for something to believe in. Howard, Smith, and Pollard are an unlikely trio brought together by a horse long given up on, all of whom I felt like I knew personally the book is so magnificently written. There is so much history here, too...even the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The descriptions of a jockey's hard life are heartbreaking. I cried my eyes out at Seabiscuit's fatal heart attack at only age 14. His huge heart couldn't guarantee him a long life. I mourn finishing this book. Nothing I go to now can compare. I am in love with Seabiscuit, both the horse and one of the greatest books of our time.

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