Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Book 41 of 2012: Seabiscuit

I'm spamming my blog this week (can you spam your own blog?) because I'm trying to get caught up on my book reviews, especially since I've been receiving free copies of ebooks in return for reviewing them. So I figured it would be better if I could actually review them in the same month that I read them, so this is the final push to get caught up.

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand tells the story of a racehorse who rose to fame and fortune in America in the 1930s. It’s not the usual book that I would go for, I’m not a big fan horse-racing and I’ve never really been that interested in horses. As a child I didn’t dream of having a pony, I wanted dogs, hehe. I just happened to read it because it was the final book in the set of ten Stranger Than Fiction books I’d got last year.

I have to admit, I was a little surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Honestly, when I started it I was thinking that I just had to read it because it was the last in the series and that hopefully it wouldn’t take too long to get through. I spent the first few chapters thinking that it really wasn’t for me, but somehow I got drawn in and read it in just a few days.

In fact, I got so into the story, that come the epilogue I was actually a little bit choked up. I was sitting on the train on the way to Glasgow at the time and did feel a little bit ridiculous trying not to cry about a horse. But it is definitely written in a way which is designed to tug at your heartstrings, and it certainly succeeded with me.

Although I did enjoy it, I also had a sense that it could have been edited down quite heavily. Every race that Seabiscuit ran in is heavily detailed which really pushed the page count up, many of the races probably could have been glossed over a little more. There were also loads of people who were only slightly linked to the story, people on the periphery who didn’t really add anything to the overall story. Hillenbrand made use of notes at the end of most chapters and I think that rather than devoting so much time to introducing these characters who might only be mentioned once or twice, they might have been explained in less detail at the ends of the chapters in note form.

One thing which I do think Hillenbrand did very well, was the descriptions of the races. I’ve never been interested in racing so I was expecting those aspects of the book to have been lost on me. But they were full of suspense and had a bit of an ‘edge-of-your-seat’ quality to them. I was aware of the film of Seabiscuit but having never seen it, I had no expectations of what the outcomes of the races would be. When Seabiscuit lost, it came as a shock to me and when he won, it was as though I had watched the whole thing myself.

When the walk-ups were over, Smith would take the horse back to the barn. Just as always, in the afternoons most of the Eastern Seaboard streamed into the barn to stare at Seabiscuit. Smith didn’t seem to mind. “Can’t hurt a horse looking at him,” he said. Smith probably did think you could hurt Seabiscuit by looking at him. Which is why he made sure that the horse they were all gawking at was Grog.
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