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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beneath the rotting flesh lived a human being
A classic tale of life in Victorian England, where deformed people such as Joseph Merrick were cast aside. This is the heartbreaking true story behind the film, which inspired so many of us to re-evaluate our own imperfections.
Joseph Carey Merrick was born in Leicester, into Victorian standards that did not and could not tolerate the astounding abnormalities of his...
Published on 13 Aug. 2001 by Paula Lees

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A sad story
The story starts with `John' Merrick working in a so-called sideshow fair (which is actually a euphemism for public freak show) and his subsequent meeting with Dr Treves - whom he later befriends and who turns out to be an integral part in Merrick's life.

The narrative looks back on his early life in Leicester. It traces his life in a workhouse and that into a...
Published 21 months ago by Gurjit


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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beneath the rotting flesh lived a human being, 13 Aug. 2001
By 
Paula Lees "ladybrum" (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The True History of the Elephant Man (Paperback)
A classic tale of life in Victorian England, where deformed people such as Joseph Merrick were cast aside. This is the heartbreaking true story behind the film, which inspired so many of us to re-evaluate our own imperfections.
Joseph Carey Merrick was born in Leicester, into Victorian standards that did not and could not tolerate the astounding abnormalities of his features. Cast aside by his father after his mother died, and Joseph's new stepmother (who could no longer accept him), he reluctantly and eventually ended up becoming the main attraction at the local fairs. He would show all his corrupting flesh for those who paid the entrance fee, listening to the gasps of horror from the audience, witnessing the women fainting from the horrendous sight before them. In time, Joseph would be saved from this degrading humiliation by an eminent doctor, who later came to realise that beneath the corrupting foul smelling flesh of Joseph Merrick's body lay a most humane person. For Joseph loved to read, enjoyed the theatre, had a thirst for knowledge, and above all asked for nothing more than to be accepted for a human being with feelings and emotions.
It is true to say that it would be hard for most people in today's society not to turn away from such a sight as Joseph, ambling along the street, covered from head to foot by cape and mask, unable to communicate effectively because the disease has made it virtually impossible for him to talk. But today's society has a greater understanding of the tragic "freaks of nature" as they were known, and this is what makes this true story so heartbreaking to try and understand today.
Joseph Merrick never asked for anything in his entire life, only maybe enough time for people to realise that underneath his gut wrenching exterior appearance, there lived a decent human being.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, 14 Aug. 2007
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This review is from: The True History of the Elephant Man (Paperback)
Before reading this book I had very little knowledge of Joseph Merrick - only the general rumours that almost everyone in the Western World seems to have heard, and what I had assumed.

This book shows everything about Merrick from the loneliness that he felt, his love for the people around him, his spirit and compassion. It also shows his true feelings about being an exhibit in a freak show. What I found great about this book in particular is the detail that is spent focusing on the other people in Merrick's life (like Treves and Tom Norman). I found that to be one of the biggest bonuses of this book.

It is informative and heart breaking, and I for one couldn't put it down -it really is a masterpiece.
Plus the writings of both Treves and Merrick included at the end were a fantastic addition that made my experience even better than I had hoped for.

Having read this book I feel that I know so much about Merrick. I would sincerely recommend this book to anyone and everyone who has even the slightest interest in Joseph Merrick!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A sad story, 1 May 2013
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This review is from: The True History of the Elephant Man (Paperback)
The story starts with `John' Merrick working in a so-called sideshow fair (which is actually a euphemism for public freak show) and his subsequent meeting with Dr Treves - whom he later befriends and who turns out to be an integral part in Merrick's life.

The narrative looks back on his early life in Leicester. It traces his life in a workhouse and that into a life of `showbiz'. Throughout, one gets a flavour of the changing tide of public morals in Victorian England. In any event, following the closures of sideshows in England and a reprehensible manager who leaves him for dead in Belgium, the story picks up with his struggle to return to London and his torment as he followed by groups of people in the streets.

What follows is a series of pitfalls for the young Merrick and with an indomitable spirit, coupled with some good fortune, he eventually lands back on the doorstep of Dr Treves and so another chapter begins. Indeed, the book for me is as much about Dr Treves as it is about Joseph Merrick.

The latter part of the book focuses more on the medical aspects of his life and how the type of care he was receiving.

I found this book to be an interesting read in that it debunks some myths and confirms others. It also shows just what a humane, soft, intelligent and inspiring figure that was Joseph Merrick.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragedy, Honour and Human Spirit, 30 Aug. 2007
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This review is from: The True History of the Elephant Man (Paperback)
I read this book as the story of the Elephant Man, Joseph Carey Merrick, has fascinated and terrified me since I was a child. What I read left me horrified and deeply touched. Beneath the horrifying exterior that blighted his life, Merrick was a true gentleman, with an extroadinarily childlike view of the world that so shunned him, who simply wished to be accepted and loved. Ironic then, that his 'saviour' Mr Treves, honourable as his intentions may have been, continued to 'show off' Merrick, making himself almost as bad as the Freak Show hosts of Merricks previous life.

This book is fantastic. Very tastefully written, and gives a great deal of insight to the man behind the legend. Read this and you will laugh, cry and shake with disgust at the atrocities that befell Merrick, and will forever hold the man in the highest regard for his strength of character and his almost unwavering spirit.

Not for the faint hearted, however, as there are graphic photo's of Merrick throughout his time at the London Hospital.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Man, 5 Feb. 2010
By 
L. R. Richardson (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The True History of the Elephant Man (Paperback)
Joseph Merrick's life was terrible. It seems that modern day people disparage the Victorian era for not understanding his condition and gawking at him. While it's true that he was in the freakshows because he had no other choice, I would argue that the Victorians treated him far better than they could have, and that today, even with our superior knowledge of medicine, we would gawp no less. His life was wretched, but it could have been far worse were it not for the kindness of others.

Joseph Merrick was born in Victorian England perfectly normal, but as he grew his deformities grew more apparent and more severe. He was driven from his home by a shrewish stepmother, driven from his uncle's home by a shrewish aunt, and then forced to barely survive in a workhouse. He could have chosen to languish in the workhouse, but he chose instead of join the circus and become an attraction in the freakshow. While having people flinch in horror at the sight of him must have been awful mentally, physically and financially he was far more secure.

Unfortunately, while travelling around mainland Europe, his manager stole his not inconsiderable savings and he was left to limp home to England, where he threw himself upon the mercy of a doctor who had examined him earlier, a Dr. Frederick Treves. And after this, after suffering so much pain, he was able to live the rest of his life in relative comfort thanks to the charity of the Victorian elite.

He had a room in the hospital, the best care he could be given, and he was in time visited by various members of the nobility and even the royalty. For Joseph Merrick by all accounts was as lovely on the inside as he was hideous on the outside. He read, he assembled models of buildings with his one good hand, and he dreamed. It's such a shame that he had to suffer such physical deformities during his life.

This book is well-researched and it is apparent that the authors had respect for both Merrick and Treves. The appendixes at the end are also very fascinating, with a brief autobiography by Merrick himself and an account of Merrick written by Treves. The Elephant Man is an uplifting story about the human spirit and humans will always find the story of Joseph Merrick heartbreaking and inspiring.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary true story of human endurance, 27 Feb. 2012
By 
Samuel Romilly (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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The elephant man, a grotesque body camouflaging a fine character, is one of the oddist medical stories. This account is movingly written and well illustrated, and provides a harrowing depiction of human suffering, and endurance.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Joseph Merrick, 31 Jan. 2010
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Paul O'dowd (Eire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The True History of the Elephant Man (Paperback)
This is a well researched book which paints the background era of Jpseph Merrick very well. It is a harrowing tale and we hear of the miseries that this poor man had to endure. It includes the full text of Fredrick Treeves account of his dealings with Merrick and we find that not all of his recollections are factually correct.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read, 19 Jun. 2014
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Phillip Chambers (Sussex, UK) - See all my reviews
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A very interesting and well-written account of Joseph Merrick's short life. It also includes some photographs and copies of letters. I would highly recommend this book as I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The true life of the elephant man ., 27 May 2014
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This review is from: The True History of the Elephant Man (Paperback)
Totally superb . Very tear jerking , making you realise how fortunate in life you are . Having been impressed by the film I was surprised how accurate it was to the real story of Mr Merrick . A very well written and informative book which really opens your eyes . If you were intrigued by the film then this is the book for you !
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5.0 out of 5 stars A lot to think about, 22 Oct. 2013
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Tackled from every angle with nothing but the pure facts. After watching the film "The Elephant Man" i thought i knew Mr. Merrick,However i was very wrong. This book goes into absolute detail of every aspect of his life(where possible). From the start of his life to the end. This book won't fail in amazing you and making you feel emotions for Mr.Merrick.

It confirms the rumors and diminishes some if not most of them. If you're curious about The Elephant Man or even if you want a good insightful read i recommend this book.
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The True History of the Elephant Man
The True History of the Elephant Man by Peter Ford (Paperback - 10 July 2001)
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