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Seabiscuit: The True Story of Three Men and a Racehorse [Hardcover]

Laura Hillenbrand
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)

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Book Description

21 May 2001

The true story of three men and their dreams for a racehorse – Seabiscuit – that symbolised a pivotal moment in American history, as the twentieth century’s greatest nation found the courage to bet on itself to win against the odds. Now a major motion picture directed by Gary Ross and starring Toby Maguire and Jeff Daniels.

In 1936 the habits of 19th-century America were finally consigned to history just as Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind was published. In their place, modern America was born. But what defined this new era? Nothing more than the story of Seabiscuit, a stunted colt with asymmetrical knees that had for two years been hacked around no-good race tracks which led to permanent leg damage. Yet by 1937 Seabiscuit could draw crowds of 60,000 and had more newspaper column inches devoted to him than Mussolini, Hitler or Roosevelt, his popularity peaking during his appearances at the Santa Anita Handicap. America had gone to the races for the first time since the Depression and fallen in love with a misshapen colt of great character. Now it wanted a winner. Seabiscuit is aslo the story of three men: Tom Smith, a former Wild West Showman was the trainer; Red Pollard, abandoned by his poverty stricken family at a race track became the rider; and Charles Howard, a pioneer car manufacturer in San Francisco in the 1920s was the owner and financier. These three combined to create the legend of Seabiscuit and epitomise a dream for the emerging new America.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 399 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate; 1st edition (21 May 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841150916
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841150918
  • Product Dimensions: 26.2 x 20.8 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 849,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Laura Hillenbrand tells the story of the horse who became a cultural icon in Seabiscuit: the Making of a Legend. He didn't look like much. With his smallish stature, knobbly knees, and slightly crooked forelegs, he looked more like a cow pony than a thoroughbred. But looks aren't everything; his quality, an admirer once wrote, "was mostly in his heart".

Seabiscuit rose to prominence with the help of an unlikely triumvirate: owner Charles Howard, an automobile baron who once declared that "the day of the horse is past"; trainer Tom Smith, a man who "had cultivated an almost mystical communication with horses"; and jockey Red Pollard, who was down on his luck when he charmed a then-surly horse with his calm demeanour and a sugar cube. Hillenbrand details the ups and downs of "team Seabiscuit" from early training sessions to record-breaking victories, and from serious injury to "Horse of the Year"--as well as the Biscuit's fabled rivalry with War Admiral. She also describes the world of US horseracing in the 1930s, from the snobbery of Eastern journalists regarding Western horses and public fascination with the great thoroughbreds to the jockeys' torturous weight-loss regimens, including saunas in rubber suits, strong purgatives, even tapeworms.

Along the way, Hillenbrand paints wonderful images: tears in Tom Smith's eyes as his hero, legendary trainer James Fitzsimmons, asked to hold Seabiscuit's bridle while the horse was saddled; critically injured Red Pollard, whose chest was crushed in a racing accident a few weeks before, listening to the San Antonio Handicap from his hospital bed, cheering "Get going, Biscuit! Get 'em, you old devil!"; Seabiscuit happily posing for photographers for several minutes on end; other horses refusing to work out with Seabiscuit because he teased and taunted them with his blistering speed.

Though sometimes her prose takes on a distinctly purple hue ("His history had the ethereal quality of hoofprints in windblown snow"; "The California sunlight had the pewter cast of a declining season"), Hillenbrand has crafted a delightful book. Wire to wire, Seabiscuit is a winner. Highly recommended. --Sunny Delaney


'A rip-roaring narrative from a cobwebbed chapter of the Depression' Sunday Times

'Hillenbrand tells the story of the triumphs and tribulations of her cast of misfits with flair and skill, relishing the larger than life characters who inhabited this forgotten demimonde.' Sunday Times

'Most readable…a wonderful tale' Daily Mail

'This season's literary sensation' Financial Times

A classic tale.' Sunday Times’

'Great horse, great name, great story, very good book…this one could run and run' Observer

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars unlikely heros 10 Dec 2003
By A Customer
Seabiscuit is the touching story of three miss-fits inspiring the US nation during the depression. A wonky horse, trainer and hard luck jockey team together to win some of the most prestigious races on the US circuit and in doing so rally the spirits of the American public in a way reminiscent of the England Rugby World Cup frenzy.
The characters are superbly crafted and you feel an empathy with them as their lives unfold before you. There is a very strong need to know what happens next when reading the book.
It is a fabulous story showing that even during the hard times the love of family, friends and good old fashioned hard work can turn your luck around.
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71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars and with five furlongs to go... 2 Dec 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As a child horseracing always struck me as a matter of terminal boredom, particularly on rainy Saturday afternoons when the TV seemed to be dedicated to solely that sport... Not surprisingly, I ventured into Seabiscuit with some trepidation and without having seen the film! The result was a massive surprise!
Seabiscuit is a story of grit, courage and character and written by an author who knows that it's going to be tough reading a couple of hundred pages about races on various racecourses in the US. However, somehow the book moves along at quite a pace - at times exciting, at times informative and at times just descriptive, but all the way through you get the feeling of expectation building up. There is a palpable excitement as Seabiscuit heads for the greatest race of his life despite the difficulties that surround him, his trainer and his jockeys. This deserves to be read even if you don't much go for horseracing.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seabiscuit 25 July 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
If you love horses and have even a little bit of interest in racing this book is one you will thoroughly enjoy.
You feel like you are living all the hopes and fears of the characters, and when the races are on, you find you just cant read fast enough to keep up with The Biscuit! - you certainly cant put the book down mid race!
- I hope the film is true to the book, - cant wait to see it.
. Buy this book - you'll love it!
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning 14 May 2003
By A Customer
Quite simply this is the best sports related book I have ever had the pleasure to pick up. The level of research required for a book where the major players are now deceased could easily leave the impression that the author has poetic licence to write whatever they want. This is never the case with this masterpiece.
I had never heard of Seabiscuit despite him being an American legend, but my interest was raised after by chance reading a small review in a Sunday paper. The portrayal of Red Pollard, a one eyed jockey of limited ability struggling to come to terms with numerous personal demons, and the horses trainer Tom Smith, a misunderstood genius, is breathtaking. The prose is such that this is impossible to put down. I found myself willing SeaBiscuit on in his battle with War Admiral and even now find myself running over my images of this race at sometime innoportune moments such is the fantastic way the author conveys this equine battle in print.
Basically if you are reading this just click on the buy button, wait for the postman to deliver, lend the television to a neighbour (you won't be needing it) and feast on this incredible sporting odyssey.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will Convert Fiction Readers to Non-fiction 9 May 2002
By A Customer
This book is a runaway best-seller in the U.S., and deservedly so. People who have no interest in horses, racing, or history have enjoyed it and have given it the highest rating. It WILL be made into a movie, so read it now for the true story - who knows what Hollywood will do to it?
The Great Depression of the 1930s had a devastating effect on the U.S., lasting from 1930 to 1940. (Elderly people today who lived through it still hoard mundane items like string etc. for fear of having to live through another economic depression.) Seabiscuit was a Cinderella story that inspired millions of Americans and helped them hope for a brighter future free of bread lines, soup kitchens, rampant unemployment, and government giveaways of basic necessities like shoes. (My mother stood in line to get shoes for my grandfather, who was too ashamed - or proud - or both - to go himself.) Even into the 1950s, when I was a child, Seabiscuit's name was invoked when you wanted something to go faster ("Come on, Seabiscuit!").
The horse, the owner, the trainer, the jockeys - all were wonderful characters that you won't soon forget. A professional book reviewer for National Public Radio named this the best book of 2001. I hope you will enjoy it too.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Audio Cassette|Verified Purchase
Brilliant...Why has this never been made into a film or has it? Well actually, I can answer that, apparentally the process has started...'can't wait.'This story has got it all, excitement, drama,disappointment, suspense, tragedy, determination and even comedy.This is a true story written like a novel. Whether it is correct in every detail I couldn't comment. As someone with a passing interest in horse racing and sport in general, plus being from England I only recognised the horses name Seabiscuit. However, this lack of knowledge to the story only added to the enjoyment, as I was unaware of what was to unfold.It is so well written that I was there! I rode the back straights, heard the crowds,smelt the sweat and felt every effort of the horse and jockey. I even believed Seabiscuit had won only to have my hopes dashed and become disappointed as the result was annouced.I even shed a tear or two towards the end! Not because of sadness but enjoyment, of a story about decent loyal people showing kindness, faith and decencey toward each other and truely having a great horses interest at heart. An audio book also needs the right voice and reader.I cannot fault Campbell Scott whose tone was always spot on to the occasion and complimented the text superbly. Not just a story for the racing buff but a great one for anyone who enjoys a good decent non-violent tale. Now I must buy the book and find out more about the author Laura Hillenbrand
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply Brilliant
I read seabiscuit first and then unbroken, she is now my favorite author ever. Simply brilliant. Reduced me to tears in places. Read more
Published 1 minute ago by Mr Paul Goldson
5.0 out of 5 stars Racing fan joy
Was a gift for a racing fan and they enjoyed it immensely
Published 22 days ago by Fright Night Freak
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Read!
I bought this on the strength of the film and wasn't disappointed. Excellently researched and very informative - not only about the horse and 'family' but about the whole horse... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr Philip Kennerell
4.0 out of 5 stars seabiscuit the racehorse
interesting view of '30s USA. and the development of the country where the horse was so important,good study of men and animals of this time.
Published 3 months ago by vancough
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
A brilliantly written account evoking fun, sympathy, empathy and understanding of the many lives involved in the raising and racing if this remarkable horse
Published 4 months ago by Pam Thomson
5.0 out of 5 stars Seabiscuit
I have read this book before and loved it all over again. You don't need to love horses to enjoy it, its so beautifully written.No doubt will read it again!
Published 5 months ago by C Harding
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Excellent book for anyone interested in horses and people. Really good story with interesting history, much better than the film.
Published 5 months ago by Showerking
5.0 out of 5 stars A real feel good story.
I saw the film a few years with my wife and we both loved it. Decided to read the book on a whim. Good move. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Wonkyjack
5.0 out of 5 stars book
Great book of great horse thanks.
a good book always come in handy and a must to be kept in any bookcase at home
Published 6 months ago by skipper
5.0 out of 5 stars You' ve seen the film. Now read the book.
I loved the film so bought the book for even more detail. Absolutely fascinated and could not put it down.
Published 10 months ago by AndytheDriver
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