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Seabiscuit: An American Legend
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on April 15, 2004
Seabiscuit is the classic tale of triumph over tragedy; A book based on the true story of four lives intricately entwined together in a dark time of our nation's history. Red Pollard, Charles Howard, Tom Smith, and Seabiscuit triumphed when our nation (and world) needed something to hold on to.
Laura Hillenbrand brilliantly depicts the grand era of horseracing; she writes as if she has an intimate view into the thoughts and actions of the characters. Hillenbrand hilariously illustrates the thoughts of the obstreperous Seabiscuit. Seemingly uninterested in becoming a winner at the racetrack, Seabiscuit meets his friend and closest ally, Tom Smith.
Smith is responsible for looking past Seabiscuit's physical shortcomings, seeing into the horse's heart, and training him to be an American legend. As a trainer Smith's adage was, "Learn your horse. Each one is individual and once you penetrate his mind and heart, you can often work wonders with an otherwise intractable beast." Smith's incomparable ability to turn washed up(horses)into winners created a partnership for success when he bumped into jockey, Red Pollard.
Pollard grew up in a home that was hit hard by poverty, and with his wit and "passion for danger," he left for the ride of his life, never returning to his home. Instead he became like a son for the magnanimous Charles Howard.
Charles Howard was the rock - the foundation that held everything together. Without his vision to make things happen, (and an unlimited pocketbook) Smith and Pollard would have dreams left unfullfilled, and Seabiscuit may have been left for dead.
Something about the four of them together created a balance. As Pollard discovered in "Old Waldo" Emerson's philosophy - "things are balanced by their opposites."
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on April 8, 2004
Although this book is well-known by now, it is still one of
the best to come out in years, and it should not be missed by
any reader.
Hillenbrand does such a fantastic job of outlining the characters involved, and showing such depth of emotion and feeling of all the men involved in the development of the racehorse Seabiscuit, it is almost impossible to believe she is
so young. Her writing reveals such a strong concept of the
motivations and feelings of these people, all her descriptions
have the feel of having been written by someone of great wisdom
and experience in the world. The fact that she is young illustrates her ability and her commitment to a first-class
story.
Her feeling for, and descriptions of, the Depression years
of the late '30s are also equal to the best to be found, and
she has that ability with her writing to grab the reader and
thrust them into that era.
This is not only a book about a racehorse, but much more than
that; this is a story of determination, the flowering of the human spirit, the heroic never-say-die attitude of all winners,
and the rare ability of a few people to work together to produce
results undreamed of. Here, the owner, the trainer, and the
jockey worked together to produce results that no 2 of them
could have come close to. And each individual was barely getting by in the field of horseracing before they all came
together and produced such amazing results.
The author has so researched her subjects, her book reads like
she was right there with them, and every scene has such a ring
of authenticity, we know she has talked to everyone alive who
was present at the time. Plus, she puts those facts, feelings
and observations together in such a way that her book reads like
a fine-tuned mystery or great novel.
As said, this is much more than a story about a racehorse, and
this book will be enjoyed by any reader.
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on April 1, 2004
In the first few pages I worried that this was going to be another David Halberstam kind of book - every character a giant, every problem a crisis. Add that to Hillenbrand's celebrated bout with chronic fatigue, and there's every reason to be concerned that it'll be more hype than content.
The book does start out a little too hyperbolically as she sets up the three main (non-equine) characters, but after the rough start she moves into a story that's as gripping as it is quick-paced. Some of the tidbits are fascinatiing: who would have ever guessed that a third of the entire country would have tuned in to hear the radio broadcast of a horse race? Or that a horse would be on the front page of every newspaper? It's a fascinating look at a time when the country was gripped by the spirit and fortitude of a great animal.
Who will like it: most readers of event-based non-fiction; people looking for a fun beach read.
Who won't like it: people who prefer their non-fiction to be straight biography; anyone who finds a predictable ending annoying.
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on March 11, 2004
At the young age of 26, Charles Howard travelled to San Francisco. He left his wife and two sons behind while he searched for work. After time he eventually opened a small bicycle shop in the heart of San Francisco. As he began fixing bikes, "automobiles" were just arriving.
In 1905 Charles brought his family to San Francisco. Charles by then had been trying to sell cars, he wasn't successful at all in doing so. After a year or so of selling cars an earthquake devastated San Francisco. The earthquake helped and made Charles a very rich man. His vehicles sold quick as ambulances and vehicles which could cope with the turned up roads.
Charled started with a tiny bicycle shop and now he was one the largest distributors of automobiles. He made so much money he was able to buy his dream ranch of 17,000 acres in Northern California.
After one of his sons died his marriage fell apart. He then got a divorce from his wife. After time passed he met a girl named Marcela and fell in love with her. Marcela grew up with horses for most of her life and wanted to introduce thorughbred racing to Charles.
Charles bought a horse who noone else wanted. Charles bought Seabiscuit for $8,000 from Ogden Mills. After a few words were exchanged, a simple handshake made the deal final. This horse walked and galloped oddly. This horse was only three years old and ran as much as a normal horse would in its whole career. This horses name was Seabiscuit. Seabiscuit was very small compared to most race horses. Most looked at him as if he was a pony.
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on March 7, 2004
The book, Seabiscuit, is a very well written account about the best racehorse in the world. The author Laura Hillenbrand, does a very good job describing the characters and events included in the story. Most of the book is the events leading up to the big race at the end- the Santa Anita Handicap. It describes how each of the character is changed through the events that take place, and how they all grow in their relationships with each other and with the horse.
In a review written in Florida in August of 2003, the reviewer says that the book is 'excellent, excellent.' Everything the reviewer said was positive. She summed up the book by talking about the main characters and how each of them were so very different but came together to form an amazing team. I agree with everything that she said because they all seemed like total opposites at first and none of them hd any future. Seabiscuit had 'knobby knees and a lazy disposition,' Tom Smith wouldnt ever say a word and lived in the wilderness for a long time, Pollard was having bad luck as a jockey, and Howard was depressed after the loss of his son. Buit they came together and a wonderful story came out of it.
I would recommend this book to anyone, especially people that love horses. It was a little hard to get interested in it at first, but after a few chapters, its hard to put down.
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on February 29, 2004
As I first approached Laura Hillenbrand's "Seabiscuit," my knowledge of horseracing was limited at best. I had been to the local horsetrack a few times, and knew enough to be excited only when the horse I had chosen, usually due to a unique name or an unidentifiable lucky feeling, stuck its nose out in front of the pack and my payout flashed on the infield scoreboard. Though my knowledge of the sport of kings was definitely limited, Hillenbrand's account of the knobby-kneed horse-that-could engrossed me as few other books have.
"Seabiscuit" is, to put it bluntly, an absurdly entertaining novel. I expected to read a dry account of the minutae of horseracing, punctuated by a few entertaining descriptions of races. Instead, I found the account to be written like a novel, offering fascinating characters and an absorbing narrative. I was drawn in by the end of the first chapter, in which we are introduced to the first of the story's players, Charles Howard.
The book is written in an effortless, engaging tone. Hillenbrand's words tapdance on the page. Her love for the sport of horseracing, not merely the attraction of mint julips and longshot payoffs, is contagious. She allows each character to become the real people they were. Her love for the people (and horses) she writes of is obvious, yet she still presents a fair and honest account of Seabiscuit and the people surrounding him. Aside from her stunning characterizations and meticulous, insightful research, her gift for describing the races rivals the best sportswriters in the business.
"Seabiscuit" is the most entertaining book I have read in years. Whether a racing novice or a regular at the track, this is a must-read book. Another Amazon quick-pick, for younger readers, is The Losers Club by Richard Perez
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on February 27, 2004
This is one of the most impressive books I've read recently. What grabbed me most can be summarized by a paragraph in the preface:

"They had come from nowhere. The horse, a smallish, mud-colored animal with forelegs that didn't straighten all the way, spent nearly two seasons floundering in the lowest ranks of racing, misunderstood and mishandled. His jockey, Red Pollard, was a tragic-faced young man who had been abandoned as a boy at a makeshift racetrack cut through a Montana hey field. He came to his partnership with Seabiscuit after years as a part-time prizefighter and failing jockey, lugging his saddle through myriad places, getting punched bloody in cow-town boxing rings, sleeping on stall floors. Seabiscuit's trainer, a mysterious, virtually mute mustang breaker named Tom Smith, was a refuge from the vanishing frontier, bearing with him generations of lost wisdom about the secrets of horses. Seabiscuit's owner, a broad, beaming former cavalryman named Charles Howard, had begun his career as a bicycle mechanic before parlaying 21 cents into an automotive empire."
I think this is a fantastic book because the characters are so interesting and likeable. In my opinion, the author has created a fiction out of a non-fiction (in author's words: to recreate history with the texture of a novel). She is an exceptionally talented writer. ("His eyes were wide and shining with the shock of it"-her description of War Admiral's owner, just after losing the race. One of the ending scenes of the book (after the Santa Anita race): "Red Pollard sipped his scotch and reminisced about Seabiscuit and quietly slipped out of history. The smoke from his cigarette curled up from his fingers and slowly faded away.")
No wonder why this story has grabbed her so much, who has been suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
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on February 22, 2004
I saw the movie Seabiscuit before I read the book and I left the theatre with the feeling that I'd just seen what in 20 years would be a classic. My heart was beating in time with Seabiscuit's hooves, my brain was full of the scenes that had made it a masterpiece: I was overwhelmed.
Then I read the book.
It was wonderful! I hadn't thought anything could be better than the movie - and yet it was worlds better. Hillenbrand had a rare talent for writing nonfiction as though it were prose and reminding you that in a world of "Reality" TV and fantasy everything, some times real life, without the commercial breaks adn the weekly installments, really does exceed the creations of our imagination. The only book I found that I could compare this to was Sebastien Junger's The Perfect Storm, yet it was even better than Junger's work, which also was adapted to film.
After reading Seabiscuit, I went back and watched the movie again - and couldn't believe that I had been satisfied with it. Another statement this makes: yes, even today, the book is always better than the movie :)
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on February 16, 2004
An absolutely awesome book. The story told the life of four main characters and the history of racing. The characters were Howard Shore, Tom Smith, Red Pollard and Seabiscuit. It contains lots of details on every page. It was amazing how the author had Red Pollard and Seabiscuit's lives lived so much alike. Each characters story is very nicely described and attention grabbing. However I thought Seabiscuit's life was the most interesting. Seabiscuit was an offspring of a great racing horse, but he was born a small and timid looking horse. Many hopes were put on him to be the next big winner in the racing world. Things turned dark as the owner saw Seabiscuit as a useless animal. Seabiscuit was then separated from his mother and sold for a low price. He began racing but lost every one of them. Seabiscuit was treated poorly and was constantly shifting from one owner to another. It was not until he met up with Red Pollard a young man who leads the same life as he did. Abandoned by his family, and was the worst jockey. Both of them only knew about losing. Both of them were never given a chance in the world. Both of them had a fiery temper and never wanted to give up. It was then after Red Pollard and Seabiscuit were together, they began to win. Wins after wins, Red Pollard and Seabiscuit were on a roll. However this book is all happy, both Red and biscuit face losses and many put downs. I was surprised how a jockey had to watch his weight. At times Red would eat a lot and sometimes barely nothing, they even force themselves to vomit in order to make themselves lighter. In the beginning I didn't take horse racing as a big deal. I always had thought jockeys made easy money. It was until I read Seabiscuit my views were opened up to a whole new meaning. It made me more interested in horse racing and how hard those horses and jockeys work everyday of their lives. This book also talks about the history of racing. Attention grabbing, page-flipper, this is definitely the book to read.
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on February 10, 2004
Seabiscuit was a great book. I've never been so caught up on a historical figure. This book didn't tell me just about the horse, it told me everything about that time in the 1930's. I learned about automobiles, how jockeys lose weight, Great Depression, and many other intresting things. I was quite amazed about how such a disfigured horse could be such a perfect horse with the help of such unordinary characters. It really toched me. The three people that helped Seabiscuit are,Charles Howard,Tom Smith, Red Pollard. Charles Howard,who was quite poor and opened an bicycle repair shop, which soon turned to a automobile lot. He made a lot of money with the selling of the automobiles, so he decided he should buy a horse. He bought a few cheap horses who were not very good, but he needed a trainer, he found Tom Smith, an old mustang breaker, who no one really knew that he was such a great trainer. He talked to Seabiscuit, slept next to him every night, he kept Seabiscuit on a special diet, took Seabiscuit at night for special workouts. Seabiscuit only trusted Tom Smith to take care of him.Red Pollard, Seabiscuit's jockey, was skinny and tall for a jockey. He was half-blind in one eye, due to riding one day and getting a piece of rock kicked in his eye. Red never told anyone about this, scared that if he did, they may get hid of him. As a child, his family was very rich, his dad founded a town, and owned a brick factory, a flood washed away everything they had. Red had dreamed of being a jockey, his family sent his away with a family friend to fulfill that dream. That family friend disappered, and Red was left with no money and no where to go. Red tried to earn money boxing with other jockeys, but he wasn't very athletic. He was always reading books, so he was very smart. A few owners asked Red to ride, but he did ok but not good enough to win any money. Tom Smith, spotted Red and thought he had potential. Tom Smith found Seabiscuit one day at a race, he showed Charles Howard, he thought Seabiscuit was great. They bought Seabiscuit for $7, 500. He did good, in 1937, he won the Huntington Beach Handicap, a big race back then.Later, he was beaten by a nose in the Santa Anita Handicap by Rosemount, a great horse. After that loss, he went on a winning streak, winning 10 out of 11 races. He won five handicaps. He was voted champion older horse and he was the leading money-earning thoroughbred in 1937. His record for the year: 11 wins in 15 starts that's 168,580 dollars. Seabiscuit beat War Admiral, the best horse at the time. That was to be considered as the biggest horse race at the time. Seabiscuit continued to ride for two more years, continously winning, then retired after he became a bit weak. Seven years after he retired, he died. Everyone had heard of Seabiscuit, even I, before I had heard about the book or movie. Making a movie and book out of it was a great idea, I was inspired by Seabiscuit, really. I loved the book, even though the words were heard to understand, and they went on forever about every little thing, it was good.
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