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The Final Confession of Mabel Stark

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3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  935 ratings  ·  166 reviews
In the 1910s and 1920s, when circus was the most popular form of entertainment in North America, Mabel Stark made her name in a man’s world as the greatest female tiger trainer in history, the centre-ring finale act for the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. Brazen, courageous, obsessed with tigers and sexually eccentric, Stark survived a dozen severe maulings — ...more
Paperback, 440 pages
Published May 28th 2002 by Vintage Canada (first published May 29th 2001)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,785)
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Melki
Here is the rip-roaring tale of Mabel Stark, the greatest female tiger tamer of all time. Though this book is fiction, Mabel was a real woman. A few photos of her are featured, including one showing her favorite tiger leaping onto her back, a show stopping act that drew screams from circus crowds all over the country.

Though Mabel had a way with animals, she had fairly lousy taste in men, including a first husband who had her committed to a mental institution. She literally ran away to join the c
...more
Aimee
Aug 27, 2007 Aimee rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fierce women
Lions, and tigers, and men...oh my! After reading this book, I swear I was going to join the circus and tame tigers myself. A historical fiction (of sorts) follows the love life and career of Miss Mable Stark. She is beyond her time with independed furvior and has an often comedic interpretation of romance. Her true love(s) are her cats, whom have sent her dangerously close to her death bed on more than one occasion. In addition in and out of the ring with her cats she struggles with a countries ...more
Judy
This is a fictionalized first person account of the life of Mabel Stark, a Kentucky orphan born Mary Haynie who went from nurse to hootchie-kootchie dancer to top billed tiger tamer with the Barnum & Bailey circus in the 1920s. I found it fascinating, especially the descriptions of the circus and her relationships with the tigers. I wanted to find out more about circus life in general and Mabel Stark in particular.

What did I learn? Tigers are very, very dangerous (no surprise, right?) and M
...more
Carly
**Update: dropping this to one star because I am still furious about it.**
Ughhh. This book started so strong and then...
The story repeats itself over and over. Mabel joins a new circus, gets married, gets mauled by some of the big cats, repeat.
Repetition aside, the number one reason I greatly disliked this book was the sex. Not because it was graphic or excessive (I would have been able to forgive either of those faults) but because it was SO POORLY WRITTEN. Honestly, if you want to be flat-out
...more
Almeta
I tried to verify the earlier life of Mabel as depicted in The Final Confession of Mabel Stark. An autobiography of Mabel Stark called Hold That Tiger was written, however it is generally thought to be released only to promote the circus, and likely written by the Ringling Press Department and not Mabel at all. I could not find any reference to its contents telling of her earlier life. Copies of the book are selling for $200.00 to $500.00. Available inter-loan libraries will not loan their copy. ...more
Jane
I LOVED this book! A friend read it years ago, then I found it somewhere and have had it on a shelf for a couple of years, one of those reads you mean to get round to.

So finally I read it and I loved it! I loved Mabel, the book is written in the first person, and reads like speech, very convincingly. Mabel is a survivor, fiesty, no nonsense, flawed and vulnerable. She was a real person, and Hough has thoroughly researched her life and spoke to people who knew her, and has created a vivid strong
...more
Lori
Mabel Stark a real circus performer known for her famous tiger taming acts from the 1920's is the main character of this fictional memior by Robert Hough. The story begins with the 80 year old Stark telling her life story or confession and it is a thrill for us to read. Mabel has had more action packed into her life than most.
She begins life as Mary Haynie a teenage nurse in a small Kentucky town who ends up in a disasterous marriage and as a result finds herself in a mental institution sufferi
...more
Rose Reid
Set in a time before television became our primary source of entertainment, Final Confession is an engrossing look not just at the life of a remarkable woman but also at a life style long gone, the traveling circus. Mabel Stark was a woman who really existed and Robert Hough has written a compelling novel about her life. I always ask myself when reading a book based on a real person how well done the research was and there is no way really of knowing but the end result is a very good story.

Mabel
...more
Cheryl Klein
Oct 13, 2009 Cheryl Klein rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who liked (or disliked) Water for Elephants
Shelves: fiction
Mabel Stark--a real-life tiger trainer in the circuses of the 1910s and '20s--had an amazing life by anyone's definition. But Hough does more than put it into narrative form. He uses all the tools of fiction to create a truly singular voice: His Mabel is a fighter in both the literal and figurative senses, jaw-droppingly adventurous yet somehow believable, and neurotic without ever being fussy or self-pitying. If sweet, bland Marlena in Water for Elephants drove you a little crazy, Mabel is the ...more
Karina
Well... Six stars for the life story of this unique woman. But unfortunately I did not like the book. I felt like I picked it from the wrong shelf - where cheap paperbacks with unimaginative sex content should be. The book is written as Mabel would tell the story - and it is not believable a bit. At first I was fine, but then I could not help but hear a man`s voice pretending to be a woman... Sad and disappointing. I respect author for his research but I think he should not have tried to write a ...more
Beth
I found this book on the clearance rack and thought that the story seemed like it would be interesting. I mistakenly thought it was narrative non-fiction, which I really enjoy, but alas, it is "narrative-driven nonfiction." Not quite the same thing! Still, I gave it a shot, but having read over 100 pages, I find that I just don't care what happens next. And the time I can devote to reading is too short to read something I'm just not that interested in. Plus, the writing style is a bit too colloq ...more
Sezin Koehler
I really enjoyed getting to know Mabel Stark, the first female tiger trainer in the world and all around interesting lady. That's the majority of the stars above. However, I think it could have been much more compassionately written and often I felt it wasn't really Mabel's voice telling the tale at all, it was a very apparent Mr. Hough. So few men really have the ability to write women, but anyway still worth a read.
Tiffany X
This was an INCREDIBLE book. I actually listened to it on CD on a road trip and was completely enthralled almost from the start (hang in a dozen pages or so). After listening to it for some 12 hours or so it always stayed with me through the weeks. It kept calling to me so I bought it and read it.

It's full of beautiful, kooky, kinky, startling, and delicious tension filled moments.
Michèle
Une autre trouvaille de vente de garage, j'ai hésité avant de le prendre, mais je n'ai pas regretté la découvertere de cette voix orginqale.
Mabel Stark née autour de 1885, est quelque'un de spécial. Une dompteuse de tigres qui a connu ses heures de gloire dans les années 20. Et elle a le caractère qui va avec ! Elle eut cinq maris...

C'est un coup d'oeil à l'intérieur de la vie de cirque, et certaines descriptions rappellent le célèbre film de Disney, Dumbo, avec les équipes de noirs qui érigent
...more
Donna
Oct 09, 2010 Donna rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of memoir-style fiction
Recommended to Donna by: myself
I found this a very interesting and refreshing read after Moll Flanders, especially as the protagonists of both were isolated women without families who share an affinity for men. WHat differs is the fact that Mabel finds herself a purpose to her life, which Moll fails to do.
Mabel's journey takes many twists and turns which in every example prove charming and all the moreso due to their true inspiration/basis. Mabel truly is a character I found likeable as well as quirky and full of life - exact
...more
Brittiany
The Final Confession of Mabel Stark is the fictional telling of the life of Mabel Stark, world famous tiger trainer for the circus. While the story covers some basic truths the author takes some controversial liberties (sexual in nature) in filling in the gaps. This didn't bother me, but some may take offense- consider yourself warned.

Mabel Stark (whose real name was Mary Haynie) was clearly an incredible woman. She went from cooch dancer to world renowned tiger trainer seemingly overnight. She
...more
Linda Lipko
I finished this book last week and because it haunted me I wanted to allow time to put thoughts and feelings into words.

The story of Mabel Stark is an incredible one. Losing her parents at an early age meant Mabel had to fend for herself. After a brief time of nursing, Mabel gravitated to the circus. And, it is there that she found her career and love of dangerous tigers. The early 1900's were the golden age of circus. Brazen, gutsy, suicidally courageous, Mabel hailed as the most dramatic perfo
...more
Paulamoney
I absolutely loved this book! It is hilariously and cleverly written well researched and empathetic fictionalized autobiography. Obviously written in the first person, it's a story of a female tiger trainer in the 1910s and 1920s when Circus was the best entertainment around. Mabel Stark was a baudy, sexy, "dame" and apparently a great tiger trainer. Apparently the real Mabel had a very colorful vocabulary and was known to be a good story teller. She was known to stretch the truth at every possi ...more
Tien
Wow... It was just so blunt, it was very confronting. In a way, this actually reinforced the point of the character of the narrator.

It is a confession of Mabel Stark therefore, of course, the narrator is Mabel Stark. Right of the first bat, I was confronted with just how completely un-abashed she was about sex. There is none of those Victorian reserve, no siree... The book is not erotic. Far from it, she was as open as she can be without being vulgar. Of the way she puts things into perspective
...more
Sheryl Steines
I love character driven books. A successful reading experience for me, is determined by my love for the characters I'm reading about. Fun subject matter, interesting stories, all helps, but its the characters that keep me reading, and this time, I couldn't help but wish I knew Mabel Stark. I found her life fascinating, an enjoyable read, and an eye-popping experience that I will only ever look at from afar and not wish that I could partake in. Because really I have no desire to run off and join ...more
Devon
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Steven Buechler
Hough did a great job of mixing research and imagination to come up with this book.

Page 200-201:
I dressed in silence, feeling slutty and used and guilty Al G. probably felt the same way. At the door I took a quick glance over my shoulder and had a last look at that handsome man, lying naked under a sheet, looking up at the ceiling, barely able to believe he hadn't got what he'd wanted . It must've been a shock to his system. Was the only time I ever saw him looking sad (and it still strikes me a
...more
Louise
Written as a fictional autobiography in the first person, ‘The Final Confession of Mabel Stark’ is a true-life historical account of Mabel Stark who made a name for herself by becoming the world’s greatest female tiger trainer during the early to mid-1900’s when the circus was the most popular form of entertainment. Stark was a centre-ring act for the famous Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Now 80-years-old, Mabel recounts her life and confesses to the proud and not so proud moments a
...more
Kristen
This caught my eye after reading Water for Elephants, and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get into it.

This was obviously something I shouldn't have worried about. LOL

It drew me in right away. It's told as if it's Mabel doing the writing, and it flows incredibly well. It really captures the feel of the times and of the circus, putting you instantly there, be it in the audience, or in the ring with the tigers.

As it turns out, Mabel Stark really did exist. (Of course, that wasn't her real
...more
Nic
I'm about halfway through and only really started caring about the character around page 200. I think this novel is shackled by the author doing too much research and trying to include it all instead of getting in deeper touch with the character's emotions. Even though Mabel is brash on the outside, since it's told in first-person, I'd expect to see more vulnerability, especially given what she lives through in the first two chapters.

The sex scenes, which are plentiful, are also distracting and
...more
Jen Kervin
I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK. SO. MUCH.

A fictionalized account of the very-much-real life of Mabel Stark, the greatest female tiger trainer ever, who travelled as the centre act of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in the 1910s and 20s. The story is framed, as the title suggests, with Mabel about to lose her job at Jungle Land, and we move back and forth between her early life, struggles, marriages (5 in total) and emergence as a circus star and a woman obsessed with tigers.

I truly wish
...more
Liebes Buch
Ich habe die wunderschöne Taschenbuchausgabe des Unionsverlags gelesen. Robert Hough hat einen mehrfach nominierten Roman über die amerikanische Tiigerbändigerin Mabel Stark geschrieben. Mabel Stark heiratete früh und landete dann direkt in einer Anstalt. Damals eine oftgenutzte Art, sich unliebsamer Ehefrauen zu entledigen. Von dort bricht sie aus und schliesst sich dem Zirkus an. Sie wird als Tigerbändigerin berühmt. Hough schreibt in einem Rückblick, in dem die alte Stark aus ihrem Leben erzä ...more
gillian
Oct 04, 2007 gillian rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes a little tiger-on-girl action
"Mabel Stark made her mark in a man's world as the greatest female tiger trainer in history. During the 1910's and 1920's, the tiny, curvaceous Kentucky blonde was a center-ring attraction for the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. Brazen, suicidally courageous, sexually adventurous, she survived a dozen severe maulings--and five husbands."

I love historical fiction, and this woman's story is fascinating. There were notes in the back of the book about which parts were true and how the
...more
Jennifer G
I don't think I've given a book an A+ since Matthew Kneale's English Passengers. I had just finished Wicked and loved it, but then I read this one and it was one of those rare books where you miss it when it's away from you. I carried this book with me everywhere I went, cracking it over while riding elevators, waiting in line (for anything), and even while walking down the street. Though a fiction book, it's written about the real life of Mabel Stark, a tiger tamer during the heyday of the circ ...more
Jacki
This is the story of a former circus star looking back on their life in the circus. Sounds exactly like another book that I read in the last year, huh? I was really afraid that this was going to be just like Water for Elephants, but it wasn't as much as I thought it would be.

It did use the same jargon and have similar characters, but outside of that, it was a totally different story told in a totally different way.

The reason I only gave it 3 stars is because the sex scenes/blow jobs/hand jobs we
...more
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Questionable Cont...: Mabel Stark 2 19 Aug 16, 2012 09:27AM  
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  • American Sideshow: An Encyclopedia of History's Most Wondrous and Curiously Strange Performers
  • The Life of P. T. Barnum
  • Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination
  • The Aerialist
  • Diary of a Witch
  • Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit
  • Among the Wonderful: A Novel
  • The Blue Moon Circus
  • Under the Big Top: A Season with the Circus
  • The Notorious Dr. August: His Real Life and Crimes
  • The Cracker Factory
  • Soul of a Lion: One Woman's Quest to Rescue Africa's Wildlife Refugees
  • Jumbo: This Being the True Story of the Greatest Elephant in the World
  • The Secret of Santa Vittoria
  • Gypsy: Memoirs of America's Most Celebrated Stripper
93429
I am an unapologetic Torontonian. Like my city, I am hard-working, irreverent to the point of caustic, and honest. I grow misty with nostalgia every time I pass beneath one of those ugly CN railway trestles of my youth. In addition to novel-writing (when Doctor Brinkley's Tower comes out in February it will be my fourth)I also like film, chess, spelunking, turkmenestani thumb wrestling and babies. ...more
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“…you know if you look close at the black of a tiger’s whisker, it turns out it isn’t black at all, but a swirl of violet and deep blue and kelp green.” 1 likes
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