The Final Confession of Mabel Stark

  • by Robert Hough
  • Narrated by Betty Bobbitt
  • 14 hrs and 30 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Barely five feet tall, suicidally courageous, obsessed with tigers, and sexually eccentric, Mabel Stark was the greatest female tiger trainer in history. Clad in her leather suits and married five times, she was the Mae West of tiger taming. In the 1910s and 1920s, when circus was the most popular entertainment in America, Mabel Stark was the biggest attraction for the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey circus.This vibrant and moving fictional autobiography begins in 1968. Mabel is turning 80 and is about to lose her job. Faced with the loss of her beloved cats, she looks back on her life, her escapades and tragedies, her love affairs with tigers and men. She confronts her darkest secrets, her guilt at committing "the worst thing one person can do to another". Now, with the end of life in sight, there is one thing above all else she needs to do. Mabel wants to confess.
Exuberant and inventive, The Final Confession of Mabel Stark transports its readers to the carnival world of the Big Top to an age before cinema and television, when circus performers were superstars.

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Audible Editor Reviews

Within seconds, listeners will realize there’s no one more fit to perform this wild and magical biography than veteran narrator Bobby Bobbitt. With her slight twang and raspy authority, Bobby brings to life Robert Hough’s fantastical version of Mabel Stark’s moving story. The Final Confession of Mabel Stark is an inventive and clever combination of fact and fiction, as Hough’s Mabel looks back on her life as one of the greatest tiger trainers in history. Full of all the romance, tragedy, and conquests that is associated with the real Mabel Stark, this audiobook is an extraordinary marriage of fact and fiction that will have listeners glued to their headphones.

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What the Critics Say

"Robert Hough pulls together fact and fiction to unfurl a life that invites sheer, slack-jawed fascination." (Time)
"A marvelous debut narrated with delicious humour and warmth. Just about perfect. One of the most entertaining novels in many a year." (Kirkus)
"Listeners are treated to Betty Bobbitt's performance of the indomitable, unconventional Mabel Stark....Bobbitt's raspy voice and full-throated chuckle perfectly draw Mabel's sassy attitude, complete with period diction, circus lore, and Kentucky twang." (AudioFile)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Couldn't stop listening

What an incredible idea... to take the known events from the life of an historic figure and, through research, empathy and imagination, create a novel that reads as though it were that figure’s autobiography. This is what Robert Hough has done with great success in “The Final Confession Of Mabel Stark.”

Stark, as you may be aware, was a circus superstar back in the 1910’s and 1920’s. She was a sensation with an act in which she, a tiny blond woman, wrestled a 500 pound tiger.

Working with tigers is a hazardous undertaking. So is setting out on your life adventure as an uneducated orphan. Both left huge scars on Mabel Stark. These scars, emotional and physical, create the theme of the book. With each trauma, Mabel learned more and grew as a person – at least the fictional Mabel did – and for that reason one has to cheer for her and ultimately empathize with her final heart break.

One also has to cheer for Mr. Hough whose visual metaphors, colorful ‘Kentuckyisms’ and ear for dialog created such a compelling book. The tale is incredibly plausible and the telling so convincing that you believe it is coming from the mouth of Mabel Stark – or that Mr. Hough spent years training big cats with a tent show.

Big applause is also due to Betty Bobbit, the actress whose reading brings Mabel to life so vividly. She was entirely believable as an old woman, born in Kentucky, looking back and examining the events and the emotions of a very tough and a very remarkable life.

A warning: Some people see a colorful dust jacket and a book about the circus and assume that it’s a book for children. It’s not. This book is fairly explicit in the way it deals with sex and while that shouldn’t be a problem for most adults, I would certainly not recommend it for the nursery.
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- Casey

A fun book perfectly narrated!

For the first hour I was convinced this was an autobiography read by the author! I had to double check to see it was fiction written by a man. The "voice" of the writer and the voice of the narrator are perfectly matched for this fictional account of the real "lady with the tigers." It's rather raunchy, much as if it were written by the Mae West contemporary that Mabel Stark was.

In addition, it reflects an empathy with animals that made it a perfect follow up to "Animals in Translation" which I read last week. When Stark was training tigers she had no models to follow, and no psych books to read, just pure instinct and self-preservation.
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- James

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-03-2005
  • Publisher: Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd