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Download The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy Audiobook (Unabridged)

Extended Audio Sample The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy (Unabridged) Audiobook, by Stewart O’Nan
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (811 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Stewart O’Nan Narrator: Dick Hill Publisher: Brilliance Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2008 ISBN:
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One of America's most acclaimed novelists turns to nonfiction in this powerful re-creation of the great Hartford circus fire, which took the lives of 167 people and forever changed the city and its people.

On July 6, 1944, in Hartford, Connecticut, the big top of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus caught fire during the middle of the afternoon performance. Nine thousand people were inside. The canvas of the big tent had been waterproofed with a mixture of paraffin and gasoline. In seconds, the big top was burning out of control. Bleacher seats were fronted by steel railings with narrow openings; the main exits were blocked by caged chutes in which leopards and lions were maddened by the fire.

In re-creating the horrific events of one of America's most cataclysmic civic tragedies, Stewart O'Nan has fashioned both an incomparably gripping narrative and a profound, measured glimpse into the extremes of human behavior under duress. In the madness of the inferno, some, like animal trainer May Kovar and the tragic Bill Curlee (who tossed dozens of children to safety over the lion's chute), would act with superhuman bravery. Others, like the sailor who broke a woman's jaw to get past her, would become beasts. The toll of the fire, and its circumstances, haunt Hartford to the present day - the identity of one young victim, known only as Little Miss 1565, remains an enduring mystery and a source of conflict in the city.

But it is the intense, detailed narrative - before, after, and especially during the panic under the burning tent - that will remain with listeners long after they finish this exceptional book. Download and start listening now!

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Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Teena | 2/20/2014

    " This is a very difficult book to get through. The graphic descriptions make you understand exactly what it was like to be in the inferno. Photos drive home the horror of the day. This book makes you truly appreciate our current fire and safety codes for large venues. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lilith | 2/13/2014

    " Indrukwekkend hoe de schrijver dit wrede verhaal heeft kunnen reconstrueren. Bepaalde omschrijvingen ga ik echt van mijn leven niet meer vergeten, vrees ik. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Susan Crane | 2/3/2014

    " The tragic story of the Hartford, CT Ringling circus fire. The book was researched well, very detailed (maybe too much detail), but overall a good read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lynne | 1/31/2014

    " Some may not like how detail oriented this is - which put me off at first - but as I got into it and after the fire occurred in the book, I found it to be interesting and thorough. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Karen | 1/29/2014

    " Excellent, well-written book on the disastrous circus fire in Hartford, Connecticut on July 6, 1944. I had never heard of this horrible event before reading this book. A fan of Stewart O'Nan, I came across it while searching his novels. He does a superb job explaining exactly what happened that day and it's consequences both good and bad. If you are sensitive to what happens to people when burned, this book may not be for you as it gives gory details. Still, a well researched book about a horrible tragedy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary Dugan | 1/21/2014

    " This took a long time to read because it was my bed book, but I really like everything by O'Nan. I'm working my way through his collection. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 dejah_thoris | 1/18/2014

    " Another example of an author writing the book he wants to read. After much research regarding the Hartford Circus Fire of 1944, O'Nan wrote this book based on archival material and interviews with survivors and their families. He manages to keep various subplots like the mystery of Girl 1535 consistent throughout the overall narrative, which is tricky considering how many small subplots he traces. He also expands the tragedy past its immediate impact by discussing national legal implications (i.e. the end of circus tents) and past memorials. Solid memoir(s) but also a good buy for libraries supporting disaster planning, fire safety, criminal forensics, and criminal psychology too. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Becky | 1/16/2014

    " Great book! About the Ringling Bros. circus fire of 1944. Had a lot of social psychology principles depicted as people responded to the fire, panic, and the aftermath. While it is a sad topic, it was amazingly and objectively described. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 kim | 12/29/2013

    " be prepared, this is a harrowing read. o'nan simply tells the story. a beautiful, heartbreaking read delivered with his own unique style. i will never forget this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melissa McGuire | 12/28/2013

    " Historical nonfiction recounting the details surrounding a fire that killed many people attending a circus. Very detailed, somewhat morbid, but totally facinating. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heather Oreilly | 11/27/2013

    " Great book! Sad but really interesting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Billy Stevenson | 11/13/2013

    " Great account of a tragedy that, much like the Coconut Grove fire in Boston in '46, helped shape current safety regulations concerning fires. Thorough and detailed, it brings the perspective of those families involved in the event to the fore. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 alex | 11/9/2013

    " Well laid out, well researched, very depressing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Pauline | 10/23/2013

    " Overall I liked the story. I didn't like the fact that the author repeated himself a little too much, almost needing fillers. But overall "nice" read to a tragic story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bob | 10/11/2013

    " In honor of Jose Chung......Terrific, and most up-to-date and accurate accounting of fire. Corrects errors of earlier writers. Brave enough to show that some questions remain to be answered. Good first hand accounts. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Colleen Kronman | 12/29/2012

    " An excellent history of a great tragedy...well written without being maudlin and a must for anyone interested in circuses and the history thereof.. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mark Greene | 6/30/2012

    " Excellent history of the tragedy and compelling mystery of Little Miss 1565 "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 manfred | 6/12/2012

    " auch interessant - im zusammenhang mit o'nans sonstigem oeuvre auch irgendwie passend, aber ich fands dann doch recht langatmig, hmmm... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tracey | 6/12/2012

    " Love this book. I've been fascinated by this story for years, and O'Nan does an excellent job of describing the horror at the circus. The story of Little Miss 1565 is sad and compelling, but all the victims and survivors have interesting stories. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Meghann | 4/13/2012

    " re-read April 26 2012 "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 G | 12/16/2011

    " Riveting and harrowing...a fascinating story that few know about and no one seems to want to remember. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 R.Friend | 11/10/2011

    " I'm a sucker for obscure disasters, I guess. This one is well-written, and tough to put down. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael Pack | 4/1/2011

    " Fascinating story of a little-known American tragedy. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tracey | 3/30/2011

    " Love this book. I've been fascinated by this story for years, and O'Nan does an excellent job of describing the horror at the circus. The story of Little Miss 1565 is sad and compelling, but all the victims and survivors have interesting stories. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary | 3/17/2011

    " This took a long time to read because it was my bed book, but I really like everything by O'Nan. I'm working my way through his collection. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael | 12/21/2010

    " An epic and gripping true story. I loved it so much I read it in one day. It is shocking that I never had heard of it before, but the author vividly and with excellent detail brought it all to life for me. Thank you for writing this powerful book, sir! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura | 12/16/2010

    " I had never heard of this event before I found the book...love O'nan and his narrative...really brought home this tragedy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michael | 11/27/2010

    " Fascinating story of a little-known American tragedy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Becky | 8/22/2010

    " Great book! About the Ringling Bros. circus fire of 1944. Had a lot of social psychology principles depicted as people responded to the fire, panic, and the aftermath. While it is a sad topic, it was amazingly and objectively described. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Fuzz | 5/22/2010

    " so incredibly sad to be such a detailed book. thank goodness for the lack of victim photos. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Leah | 12/11/2009

    " This topic has always frightened and fascinated me. Nonfiction written by a novelist and it works well! Warning: can be gruesome and leaves you with a very depressing feeling, especially because it is true. "

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About the Author
Author Stewart O’Nan

Stewart O’Nan is the author of more than a dozen novels, including West of Sunset; The Odds; Emily, Alone; and Snow Angels, as well as several works of nonfiction, including, with Stephen King, the New York Times bestselling Faithful. His novel Last Night at the Lobster was a national bestseller and a finalist for the 2007 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He was born and raised and lives with his family in Pittsburgh.

About the Narrator

Dick Hill, named a Golden Voice by AudioFile magazine, is one of the most awarded narrators in the business, having earned several Audie Awards and dozens of AudioFile Earphones Awards. In addition to narrating, he has both acted in and written for the theater.