The Final Confession of Mabel Stark Summary and Reviews

The Final Confession of Mabel Stark

A Novel (An Evergreen book)

by Robert Hough

The Final Confession of Mabel Stark by Robert Hough X
The Final Confession of Mabel Stark by Robert Hough
Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

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 brilliant, highly acclaimed novelization of her fantastic life.

It is 1968 - Mabel is just turning eighty and is about to lose her job at Jungleland, a Southern California game park. Devastated by the loss of her cats, she looks back on her life and her five husbands: the fifth would one day be tragically mauled by her one true love, her ferocious yet amorous 550-pound Bengal tiger Rajah. Starting with her escape from a mental institution to begin her circus career as a burlesque dancer, Mabel's exquisitely voiced confession is a live wire of dark secrets, broken dreams, and comic escapades. It is a brilliant, exhilarating story of an America before television and movies, when the spectacle of the circus reigned and an unlikely woman captured the public imagination with her singular charm and audacity.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Robert Hough's rollicking debut novel...is filled to the brim with cinematic moments and larger-than-life characters. Mabel Stark is the largest of them all..." - The Washington Post

"The Final Confession of Mabel Stark is one of the most rollicking, good-time books of the year." - USA Today

"The novel's captivating depiction of circus life is matched by Hough's furious plotting -- every few pages bring the hint of a secret, a riled tiger, a handsome stranger, a career twist or the surprise reappearance of a past friend or foe." - The New York Times

"Rich in the atmosphere of circus life, this graphic, slangy fictional reminiscence also offers some surprising, deft metafictional touches." - Publishers Weekly

"A marvelous debut...Just about perfect. One of the most entertaining novels in many a year." - Kirkus

This information about The Final Confession of Mabel Stark was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Louise J.

Welcome to the Circus!
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 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 us 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!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Robert Hough

Robert Hough is the author of The Final Confession of Mabel Stark (2001); The Stowaway (2004) which was listed on The Boston Globe's Top Ten Books of the Year and was nominated for the Dublin-Impac Writer's Prize; and The Culprits (2007), a satire about global warfare which was nominated for the Commonwealth Writer's Prize, Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and The Trillium Award.

More Author Information

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more literary fiction...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Bloodbath Nation
    Bloodbath Nation
    by Paul Auster
    In recent years, Booker Prize­–nominated novelist Paul Auster has increasingly turned to ...
  • Book Jacket: The Nazi Conspiracy
    The Nazi Conspiracy
    by Brad Meltzer, Josh Mensch
    The Nazi Conspiracy by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch was a big hit with our First Impressions readers...
  • Book Jacket
    Yonder
    by Jabari Asim
    The captivating historical novel Yonder turns an intimate lens towards the tragedy and survivorship ...
  • Book Jacket: After Sappho
    After Sappho
    by Selby Wynn Schwartz

    "Someone will remember us, I say, even in another time."
    —Sappho, fragment ...


Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Mitford Affair
by Marie Benedict
An explosive novel of history's most notorious sisters, one of whom will have to choose: her country or her family?

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Moonrise Over New Jessup
    by Jamila Minnicks

    "Jamila Minnicks pulled me into pages of history I'd never turned before."—Barbara Kingsolver

  • Book Jacket

    River Sing Me Home
    by Eleanor Shearer

    A remarkable debut about a mother's gripping journey across the Caribbean to find her stolen children in the aftermath of slavery.

  • Book Jacket

    Wade in the Water
    by Nyani Nkrumah

    A gripping debut novel of female power and vulnerability, race, and class set in a small Mississippi town in the early 1980s.

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

It's A G T Me

and be entered to win..

Who Said...

There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are either well written or badly written. That is all.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.