16 June 2009

Seabiscut by Laura Hillenbrand

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand was the prize for my Giveaway Carnival event, and the lucky recipient agreed to provide her review to be posted alongside my own here. Thanks to Dixie of A few of my favorite things blog for extending and strengthening an act of generosity into becoming an act of creativity!

For more info on this amazing animal, please also see the wikipedia entry on Seabiscuit.

Eva's review:

Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand seemed at first a rather overblown title to me for a book about an animal, no matter how interesting. But Seabiscuit was a really amazing animal, and worthy of such a dedicated biographer as Laura Hillenbrand - I was won over to his Amazing-ness by the end of the book. The story of Seabiscut's success is fairly well known, however the adversity that beset the jockey and horse seems to be known by very few. Hillenbrand surfaces the backstory and the reader realizes how truly amazing the athleticism of horse and rider were by understanding how difficult their recoveries from injury were. Also, Hillenbrand includes information about all the various persons involved with Seabiscuit, and in doing so brings an understanding to the reader as to how much effort is involved in racing a top-of-the-line racehorse. Suddenly, those victory purses don't seem so outrageous when looked at on a per-hour investment basis for that time at least.



Dixie's review:

Take a car salesman and a horse whisperer, and add a down and out jockey together. Toss in a knobby-kneed, cantankerous thoroughbred and you have the tale of Seabiscuit: An American Legend.
Written by Laura Hillenbrand this book chronicles the history of the 1930's and 40's Horse Racing circuit in a wonderfully colorful, richly described setting. There are 3 main characters we come to know. First there is owner Charles Howard, a larger than life character with PT Barnum appeal. Then there is Tom Smith, the quiet, reclusive trainer who had an almost mystical way with horses. Next comes jockey Red Pollard. A blind in one eye rider who had never achieved the greatness that he sought, and always seemed to be just one step away from catching the brass ring or a toe-tag.

Then there is the horse.

Most of the Horse racing establishment had long written off this unlikely thoroughbred of ever achieving anything remotely akin to greatness. When trainer Tom Smith urges his boss Charles Howard to buy Seabiscuit for a song, and then hired Pollard to ride him, thus began an unlikely alliance that would evolve into racing legend. We also learn of the distasteful side of the life of a jockey, who often it seemed was subjected to such miserable conditions that one wonders why anyone in their right mind would choose this career. From virtually starving themselves to maintain their weight, to riding while ill and injured, and even living in cold, drafty stables an often nomadic existence. This is a wonderful tale of an underdog's triumphant rise to glory and after reading this you come to realize that legends truly aren't born-indeed they are made, and if not for these three men who believed in him, Seabiscuit most likely would have remained just another obscure "also-ran".