Believe the hype you have heard about this book. Gruen's characters leap off the page and into your mind they are so well concieved. Almost every element you could want in a book is here - humor, a bit of a mystery, drama, angst, terror, compassion. It is about relationships; human to human; human and animal. It's about falling in love in an instant. It's about history. It's about life with a traveling circus and all the various personalities that make up a community.
The only word of caution I have is that there are elements of animal cruelty portrayed if that makes you squeemish.
I almost didn't read this book because of the wait list (over 900 people!) and because my TBR pile is now a TBR mountain. I'm glad I did read it. Knocked it out in two nights. Memorable read.
Life was hard in the 1930's, there was no work, the stock market crashed. The romance and excitement of the traveling circus was the television of that time. Of course, the circus life itself was hard, gritty, and terrible. And always, underneath it all, one finds compassion.
This is a love story, between a man and a woman, between a man and himself.
OK, First I must tell you that I don't really like circuses - at least the old fashioned kind. That's primarily because I had always heard that they mistreated their animals. This book did nothing but reinforce that opinion.
Even given that though, this is a VERY good book. Well researched with fascinating insight into the life of a 3rd rate travelling circus in during the Depression. The story and the action never slows down until the dramatic and surprising conclusion. And even though many of the characters were, frankly, nasty, the goodness and morality of the main character and others gives you hope.
Highly recommended. 4.5* (It would have been 5* if I had been a circus fan.)
Brilliant is an understatement - wonderfully plotted, well paced, characters with depth (both human and non). You can taste the popcorn and smell the hay. You worry throughout the book that things will turn out badly, but you know they simply can't. There should be more than 5 stars available.
Great book! I really wasn't all into it at first because I was not interested in Depression-era circus life. But I am telling you, as little as this interests you, this book is great and it will MAKE you interested in circus life. It's told by the main character when he is near the end of his days in a nursing home which makes it interesting since he is telling a story of his past.