Sunday, February 10, 2013


Random House of Canada|May 28, 2002|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 0-679-31132-7
In the 1910's and 1920's, when circus was the most popular form of entertainment in North American, 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 & Baily Circus.  Brazen, courageous, obsessed with tigers and sexually eccentric, Stark survived a dozen severe maulings - and five husbands.  Now, at age 80 and about to lose her job, she decides that there is one last thing she needs to do: Mabel Stark wants to confess. 
My Review:
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 and events of her life, from a 17-year-old rebellious teenager growing up in Kentucky as Mary Haynie, through five marriages and at least a dozen severe maulings by the very tigers she became world famous for training. Through the colourful and descriptive narration you feel as though you’ve been transported back in time and are there, with Mabel, observing from somewhere underneath the big top! You can almost smell the oil from the tiger’s skin, breathe in the heady scent of the straw bales set out as seats for circus goers, and hear the crack of the tiger trainer’s whip, and shouts of instruction to the animals!!

Mabel, a woman filled with love, courage, strength, tragedy, and adventure is not reluctant to show her abrasive and brash sides. She is not a woman to hold her tongue or pussy-foot her way around etiquette and manners, and is not adverse to projecting her tough-as-nails persona, creating antagonism, or speaking about her sexually promiscuous exploits.

Robert Hough proves to us in this great piece of writing that even we imperfect and flawed human beings can contribute to society in positive and remembered ways. Mabel’s quick wit, sharp tongue and indelible stubbornness will leave you wanting to hear more of little Mary Haynie’s life. I couldn’t put this book down and didn’t want it to end!

An extra nice touch was the few photos of Mabel Stark contained with the book.


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