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Editorial Reviews

Joseph Merrick possesses one of the most touching and troubling life stories of the 19th century. Suffering from several deformities, he was rejected by his family and forced to earn his living by being exhibited as a "human curiosity". Drawing on interviews with those who knew him and a great deal of scholarly research, The True History of the Elephant Man builds a full picture of the extraordinary man Merrick was - kind, gentle, and optimistic despite the cruelties he endured. Performer Steve West's expert narration and English accent adds a distinguished feel to this harrowing but ultimately human tale.

Publisher's Summary

Due to horrible physical deformities, he spent much of his life as a fairground freak. He was hounded, persecuted, and starving, until his fortune changed and he was rescued, housed, and fed by the distinguished surgeon, Frederick Treves. The subject of several books, a Broadway hit, and a film, Joseph Merrick has become part of popular mythology. Here, in this fully revised edition containing much fresh information, are the true and un-romanticized facts of his life.

©2010 Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

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  • Carolyn
  • Jonesboro, GA, United States
  • 02-05-15

Amazing man!

I've always wanted to know the real story of John Merrick...this was very informative and told the listener every detail of John's life...I felt so sorry for him having to live like that because he was so misunderstood. He was a smart man and had many wonderful qualities...its a shame that his outward appearance was the deciding factor to some people as to whether Mr.Merrick was someone of substance...he truly was extraordinary in a unique and wonderful way...you won't be disappointed!!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Sad yet inspiring

We all know the "story" or have seen the film but what an insight! This book gave the listener various ways of experiencing the "elephant man's" feelings and surroundings!! Great journey then when you thought the story ended there were more things to find out!! Just because Joseph Merrick died obviously doesn't mean the end! His survivors have their say!!
The narrator was a joy to listen to throughout!
Enjoy

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Starts slowly but really pays off

I had a hard time getting into this book, even though I was interested in the subject and I had just seen the David Lynch film.

But the story really picked up, for me, around (audio) chapter 7, when the Elephant Man, Joseph (sometimes called John) Merrick hires himself out to the freak shows of 19th-century London. That's when he meets the doctor who will be so important to the last years of his life--though neither knows it at the time.

This is a grim story. It's one of those stories about the cruelty and indifference suffered by a man crippled by physical abnormalities in a world with few safety nets. However, Merrick never relinquishes his humanity and his capacity for enjoyment in the simple things. This is captured beautifully in the Lynch film.

The grimness is alleviated in the second half of the book when Merrick finds a home in the London Hospital, under the care of Frederick Treves. Merrick even enjoys some fame and the friendship of elegant persons. This period is livelier and more poignant because it was better documented. In fact, Treves later wrote his reminiscences in an article, which is included at the end of the audiobook.


Other Audible titles you might want to check out:

The Knife Man: The Extraordinary Life and Times of John Hunter, Father of Modern Surgery by Wendy Moore -

This book's story begins some few decades before Merrick's own but also explores early medical history. John Hunter was a pioneer surgeon who would go to great and sometimes dubious lengths to acquire human and animal specimens. He even stalked a dying freak show tall man, Charles Byrne, because he wanted to dissect his body. Hunter was an inspiration for Mary Shelley's Dr. Frankenstein.


Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga by Pamela Newkirk -

Ota Benga was a Congolese pygmy who ended up becoming a caged attraction at the New York Zoological Gardens.

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Sorry, couldn't finish

I found this to be just too dry to continue listening to, and too convoluted with so many characters and relatives to try and keep straight. I gave it 3 stars because it seems to be well researched.