Summary and book reviews of Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

Seabiscuit

An American Legend

by Laura Hillenbrand

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand X
Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2001, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2002, 448 pages

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Book Summary

Hillenbrand brilliantly re-creates a universal underdog story, one that proves life is a horse race.

Seabiscuit was one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938, receiving more coverage than FDR, Hitler, or Mussolini. But his success was a surprise to the racing establishment, which had written off the crooked-legged racehorse with the sad tail. Three men changed Seabiscuit’s fortunes:

Charles Howard was a onetime bicycle repairman who introduced the automobile to the western United States and became an overnight millionaire. When he needed a trainer for his new racehorses, he hired Tom Smith, a mysterious mustang breaker from the Colorado plains. Smith urged Howard to buy Seabiscuit for a bargain-basement price, then hired as his jockey Red Pollard, a failed boxer who was blind in one eye, half-crippled, and prone to quoting passages from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Over four years, these unlikely partners survived a phenomenal run of bad fortune, conspiracy, and severe injury to transform Seabiscuit from a neurotic, pathologically indolent also-ran into an American sports icon.

Author Laura Hillenbrand brilliantly re-creates a universal underdog story, one that proves life is a horse race.

The Day Of The Horse Is Past

Charles Howard had the feel of a gigantic onrushing machine: You had to either climb on or leap out of the way. He would sweep into a room, working a cigarette in his fingers, and people would trail him like pilot fish. They couldn’t help themselves. Fifty-eight years old in 1935, Howard was a tall, glowing man in a big suit and a very big Buick. But it wasn’t his physical bearing that did it. He lived on a California ranch so huge that a man could take a wrong turn on it and be lost forever, but it wasn’t his circumstances either. Nor was it that he spoke loud or long; the surprise of the man was his understatement, the quiet and kindly intimacy of his acquaintance. What drew people to him was something intangible, an air about him. There was a certain inevitability to Charles Howard, an urgency radiating from him that made people believe that the world was always going to bend to his wishes.

On ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Seabiscuit grew so popular as a cultural icon that in 1938, he commanded more space in American newspapers than any other public figure. Considering the temper of the times as well as the horse’s early career on the racetrack, what were the sources of The Biscuit’s enormous popularity during that benchmark period of U.S. history? Would he be as popular if he raced today? What did the public need that it found in this horse?

  2. The Great Match Race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral in 1938 evoked heated partisan passions. These passions spilled over on radio and into the daily prints, with each colt leading a raucous legion of followers to the barrier at Pimlico Race Course that autumn ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Business Week - Mark Hyman
Hillenbrand, a contributing writer at Equus magazine, is a deft storyteller whose descriptions of such races are especially good, filled with images of pounding hooves and splattering mud.

Jim Squires - New York Times
[T]he story of this ragged-tailed racehorse [is] an allegory for Depression-era America. . . . [Hillenbrand's book] is a flawless trip, with the detail of good history . . . and the charm of grand legend.

USA Today - Deirdre Donahue
Seabiscuit brings alive the drama, the beauty, the louche charm and the brutality of horse racing. Hillenbrand makes the reader understand why Americans, crushed by the Depression, found so much hope, inspiration and pleasure in the story of a small horse who rose from obscurity to become a champion.

Kirkus Reviews
The former editor of Equus magazine retells the riveting story of an unlikely racehorse that became an American obsession during the Depression.

Publishers Weekly
Gifted sportswriter Hillenbrand unearths the rarefied world of thoroughbred horse racing in this captivating account of one of the sport's legends.

Library Journal
This story of trust, optimism, and perseverance in overcoming obstacles will appeal to many readers. Highly recommended.

School Library Journal - Peggy Bercher
Even readers with no interest in the sport will be hooked with the opening sentence of the book's preface. Hillenbrand does a wonderful job in bringing an unlikely winner to life.

Reader Reviews

Ahuja

An amazing Book
A nearly 400-page biography of a horse? Well, Seabiscuit was no ordinary horse: in 1938 he reportedly received more newspaper coverage than Roosevelt, Hitler or Mussolini. His match that year with his arch rival, War Admiral -- which pitted racing ...   Read More

jessica

I have read many boring and dull non fiction books and was apprehensive when i was assigned Seabiscuit in my composition class. However i was delightedly blown away. Hillenbrand's writing is both informative and creative, she really knows what she ...   Read More

Horses Rule

I have read lots of books and lots of books about horse racing and I have to say that the book Seabiscuit was a very good book. I liked the way we got a history lesson as well as a great book. I think anybody who loves horses, horse racing will ...   Read More

jlynn

I'm an avid reader and very critical and I loved Seabiscuit. I was very surprised it was written by a female, but delighted. The story was told in such a way I felt I was right there watching it happen live. The races were so descriptive, I felt ...   Read More

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