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Publisher's Summary

This is a fast-paced, carefully documented, and rich biography of Barnum, the greatest showman of all time, the American from Bethel, Connecticut, whose eccentricities and oblique, cynical approach to humanity transformed entertainment into a big, incredibly profitable business. As bachelor, husband (twice), father, and grandfather, Barnum comes to life in Mr. Wallace's crowded audiobook, an exceedingly interesting and human man. Here, too, are New York City in all its 19th century color, the London of Queen Victoria, and the Paris of Napoleon III.

In 1842, Barnum opened the first of the great museums of curiosities and freaks, adding immeasurably to the gaiety of New York life. He exhibited the tiny Charles Sherwood Stratton so successfully that he became known as General Tom Thumb, a world-famous figure. In 1850, Barnum imported Jenny Lind for a concert tour beginning at Castle Garden (later the Aquarium in Battery Park), which more than prefigured the later exploits of S. Hurok. When past 60, Barnum opened in Brooklyn "The Greatest Show on Earth," the first great American traveling circus. Combining 10 years later with James Anthony Bailey, he gave to millions of American children and grownups The Barnum and Bailey Circus. He bought from the London Zoological Society the huge elephant that became known everywhere as Jumbo. And always, he shrewdly understood that people did not mind being fooled ("There's a sucker born every minute"), if they were only entertained.

Besides the towering figure of Barnum himself, this audiobook's cast of characters includes not only Jenny Lind, Jumbo, and Tom Thumb, but also such ill-assorted figures as Chang and Eng (the original Siamese Twins), Queen Victoria herself, captive white whales, The Feejee Mermaid, and Abraham Lincoln.

©1959 David Wallechinsky (P)2017 David N. Wilson

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Enjoy this before the movie!

As the Hugh Jackman movie The Greatest Showman was about to be released I was interested in learning more about P.T. Barnum and his adventures. I enjoyed learning about his life and the choices he made.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

The Great Showman deserved Better!

P.T. Barnum's life may not have been the musical version by a long shot, but it deserved more enthusiasm and a quicker paced story. The book has all the major elements of Barnum's life, but the order in which the story was told left me frustrated. In essence, the writer used the timeline, but didn't do any deep dives into the man, only the accomplishments. Toward the end of the story he begins to reveal more of the human being that finally included the relationships with his family, business associates/partners, but in a very "oh yeah, almost forgot" sort of way.
The Narration seemed slow and plodded along a times. The sense of legitimacy of research came through the narration. Further, the narrator stayed trued to the text with very minor exceptions. It was disappointing that there was little excitement in his voice for the story of a man who's stock and trade was creating excitement.
I probably would not have finished the book without the Audible version.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Really interesting. I learned a lot.

This was a really great book. I learn a lot about the subject and the time. It's great when it's written so you don't just get to know things about the person, you also feel like your there.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Good story marred by sound processing

This was an interesting story, I wanted to listen to it after watching the Greatest Showman movie. Barnum was a fascinating man indeed and this fills in a lot of the gaps from the movie as well as telling things that the movie didn't cover.

The narration however has been passed through sound processing to remove pauses so the natural cadence of the storyteller/narrator (who has an agreeable voice and style) was ruined.

I wish someone could tell me why this is done, it's so completely unnecessary.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

captivating

this book is quite informative and captivating. between the business Savvy dealings and the workings of the press. this book is one of a kind, just like the grate P.T. BARNUM'

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great listen

Loved this book. Got after watching the movie and kept telling everyone about everything I learned.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Greatest Showman

After seeing musical, I found this fascinating. Especially enjoyed stories of his exhibits. His life, with its disasters and triumphs, was spectacular.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Excellent book read by an amateur

PT Barnum is a remarkable and inspiring character, as explored in this volume. However, the reader rarely pauses to take a breath, and doesn’t seem to give a single thought to performing the story of one of the world’s best performers.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Poorly written. Boring.

Reads like a checklist of stuff Barnum did with extreme detail about particular exhibits. Yawn.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

great story about a great man

although one cannot be bored by the fabulous story of PT Barnum, however the writing does leave some to be desired. I wish the biography had been written in a more linear fashion. Often I was forced to consult external timelines to derived the space in which certain narratives were discussed good effort to alleviate my confusion. overall, a great book and a fabulous story about one of America's foremost Showman.