Seabiscuit was an unlikely champion. He was a rough-hewn, undersized horse with a sad little tail and knees that wouldn't straighten all the way. At a gallop, he jabbed one foreleg sideways, as if he were swatting flies. For two years, he fought his trainers and floundered at the lowest level of racing, misunderstood and mishandled, before his dormant talent was discovered by three men.
One was Red Pollard, a failed prizefighter and failing jockey who had been living in a horse stall since being abandoned at a makeshift racetrack as a boy. One was Tom Smith, "The Lone Plainsman," a virtually mute mustang breaker who had come from the vanishing frontier, bearing generations of lost wisdom about the secrets of horses. The third was a cavalry veteran named Charles Howard, a former bicycle repairman who made a fortune by introducing the automobile to the American West.
In the sultry summer of 1936, Howard bought Seabiscuit for a bargain-basement price and entrusted him to Smith and Pollard. Using frontier training methods that raised eyebrows on the backstretch, they discovered that beneath the hostility and fear was a gentlemanly horse with keen intelligence, frightening speed, and ferocious competetive will. It was the beginning of four years of extraordinary drama, in which Seabiscuit overcame a phenomenal run of bad fortune to become one of the most spectacular performers in sports history.
Competing in the cruelest years of the Depression, the rags-to-riches horse emerged as an American cultural icon, drawing an immense and fanatical following, inspiring an avalanche of merchandising, and establishing himself as the single biggest newsmaker of 1938 -- receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or any other public figure.
Laura Hillenbrand beautifully renders this breathtaking saga of a horse's journey from also-ran to national legend. Seabiscuit is an inspiring tale of unlikely heroes, a classic story of three embattled individuals overcoming the odds in the Great Depression.
A first-rate piece of storytelling, leaving us not only with a vivid portrait of a
horse but with a fascinating slice of American history as well....In telling the
Cinderella story of Seabiscuit and his devoted trainer, owner and jockey, the author
Laura Hillenbrand has written an absorbing book that stands as a model of
sportswriting at its best.
----MICHIKO KAKUTANI, The New York Times
Dazzling...Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand, does for the world of horse racing what
Into Thin Air did for mountain climbing. In daredevil prose that sprints along at a
breakneck pace, Hillenbrand tells the incredible tale of Seabiscuit...Like a
brilliant jockey, Hillenbrand suspensefully manages her champion of a story. In the
final stretch, it hurtles towards it's climax.
--GLORIA CORRIGAN, National Public Radio, Fresh Air
Wonderful...Ideally, you wouldn't just find Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit: An
American Legend in bookstores. It would be next to Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole
or Lee Wiley CD's, as well-- anywhere you'd go to look for love songs....[Hillenbrand]
has an astounding eye for detail: The stories of the races in which Seabiscuit
shattered speed records are turned into infinities where the possibilities of winning
or losing reveal themselves in infinitesimal increments. These passages are almost
unbearably suspenseful. Hillenbrand also has a good sense of what to leave out,
which may account for the book's near-perfect pacing and length...The heart of its
appeal is in its seamless combination of triumph and melancholy.
Captivating....it is a flawless trip, with the detail of good history, the blistering
pace of Biscuit himself and the charm of grand legend.
--JIM SQUIRES, The New York Times Book Review
A galloping success...A fascinating portrait of an era and a wildly exciting,
truth-is-stranger-than-fiction yarn...The phrase even if you don't like horses is
sure to be tacked on by most people recommending Seabiscuit to a friend...All of this
is so vividly rendered, it's hard to believe Seabiscuit was written by anyone who
didn't live through the events it describes.
--TIME OUT NEW YORK
It's a terrific story, but it's more than just a horse's tale, because the humans
who owned, trained and rode Seabiscuit are equally fascinating...Hillenbrand not
only ties...divergent personalities into a fast-moving narrative but also shows an
extraordinary talent for describing a horse race so vividly that the reader feels
like the rider. She writes about the confusion, turbulence and artistry of a race
with the same grasp of sound and movement that Whitney Balliett beings to jazz in
his New Yorker profiles. That is no mean accomplishment...Even if your interest in
horses goes no further than hansom cabs, you'll find this book engrossing. Inevitably
it will be filmed for the big screen again. Don't wait for it. Read the book.
--RON FIMRITE, Sports Illustrated
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