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Robert Hough
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The Final Confession of Mabel Stark

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  1,327 Ratings  ·  211 Reviews
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
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Published May 1st 2004 by Bolinda Publishing (first published May 29th 2001)
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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
Aug 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Dec 03, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
**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
Jan 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: circus
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
Mar 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 11, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Rose Reid
Mar 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: circus
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.

Apr 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit-fic
Well, this was a pretty good book! The subject, the life of tiger-trainer Mabel Stark, was absolutely fascinating. I must admit that there was a rather outrageous quality, but I suppose that no circus life would be complete if the story was wholesome or toned down... Despite some questionable actions, Mabel was very likable and really, my main complaint was that the titillating secret the author teased the reader with from the beginning was not nearly as shocking as it could have been, consideri ...more
Cheryl Klein
Sep 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Oct 19, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: quit-reading
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
Mar 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once in a while a book comes along that captures your attention unlike many other books. This is one of those. This book is the fictionalized account of Mabel Stark, one of the world's greatest big cat trainers with her specialty being tigers. She really did exist and the author has taken her life history, her many husbands and her love of tigers and turned this into a hard and bittersweet story. Mabel was a very strong person and this comes through well as the author chronicles her life. It is ...more
Sezín 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.
Jun 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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.
Pat Morris-jones
Nov 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good book, interesting and well written. In the middle it seemed to lose its way a tad, just a bit of editing there and it would have been 5 stars. Long book hence editing became important!
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone, enthusiastically
Just an excellent historical fiction. It's an unusual choice of subject matter. Mabel Stark was one of the briefly best-known women in America (big cat tamer for the Ringling Bros. when that was a big deal, the lead animal act in Madison Square Garden in the early 1920s) but little remembered. Still, historical fiction from the 20th century is almost all what-if books centered around WWII with the occasional baseball novel thrown in. And by baseball I mean the 1918 Chicago Black Sox. The change ...more
Elizabeth Grieve
May 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Listened to the audiobook of this (thanks, public library!), and found it quite enjoyable, particularly as the narrator was well chosen. For her time, Mabel was a bold and courageous woman, and it seems she defied death more than once to perfect her tiger act. I especially loved the minute details of circus life.
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Historical fiction seems to be my new favorite genre but, beyond that, this book was compelling and beautiful.
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buy-in-2017
I would give it 10 stars if I could! Absolutely loved this amazing book!
Sheryl Steines
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Was a bit slow to start. it a lovely book, very descriptive a bit to much in places though for my liking.
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Steven Buechler
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
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
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
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
Oct 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
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Questionable Cont...: Mabel Stark 2 20 Aug 16, 2012 09:27AM  
  • The Circus in Winter
  • Memoirs of a Sword Swallower
  • The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton: A True Story of Conjoined Twins
  • The Life of P. T. Barnum
  • The Aerialist
  • Step Right Up: Stories of Carnivals, Sideshows, and the Circus
  • No Life for a Lady
  • Among the Wonderful
  • American Sideshow: An Encyclopedia of History's Most Wondrous and Curiously Strange Performers
  • Sideshow U.S.A.: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination
  • Nine Years Among the Indians, 1870-1879: The Story of the Captivity and Life of a Texan Among the Indians
  • The Blue Moon Circus
  • Evil Spirits: The Life of Oliver Reed
  • Fearless
  • The Cracker Factory
  • Under the Big Top: A Season with the Circus
  • The Secret of Santa Vittoria
  • I, Fatty
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 (my fifth, The Man Who Saved Henry Morgan, came out in April)I also like spelunking, Turkmenestani thumb wrestling and babies.
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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.” 2 likes
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