A novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932. When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, grifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.--From publisher description.
This book is amazing. Within pages, I was sucked into the story and immediately fell in love with the characters and plot. Definitely one of my favorite books of all time now, and it's been a long time since a new book entered that list.
This book was very well written and I thought the way the chapters alternated from past to present was very interesting. I would love to re read this book and recommend it to my friends. I think it is a very good writing peice and are excited to finally see the movie! :D
I went into this book with no expectations; I had seen that it had a lot of requests and wanted to see what the hype was about. I was not disappointed. Really interesting setting, good characters, and I loved the twist at the end!
This is a good story for readers who insist on a plot where things happen - because plenty of interesting things take place. The setting is fantastic and the characters are colorful. I found the writing so-so, but it gets the job done. But people seeking artful character development and skillful writing should look elsewhere.
On the other hand, I've recommended this book to friends who would appreciate great historical detail and well-paced action. I enjoyed it as a light, pleasant and engaging diversion, but not as serious literature. And it's nice to encounter an engaging, interesting but completely accessible read sometimes.
Although many unpleasant things happen given the subject matter, I found following this story to be an adventure, and FUN! Watching the movie diluted my love for the book a little bit, so I recommend reading the book first and, preferably, avoiding the movie. There were parts that actually made me cry in the book that weren't even included in the movie, and a lot of the humor is left out, too. The book is a beautiful work and should be left as is.
I did, about a dozen times. The childhood fantasy of running away, escaping the unpleasant, experiencing the glitter. . . Sara Gruen has written a Toby Tyler for grownups. In this engaging book, a 90 (or 92) year old in a nursing home anticipates a visit to the circus with that same expectation of magic that gave childhood its wonder. As he waits, we learn of his own run away with a circus, as a desperate young man, and how the circus shaped and saved his life. Sara Gruen gives us a man to love and learn from. The ending is a gift to all of us Toby Tyler fans.
This book is written in alternating past and present chapters. It is very interesting that ageing is presented from the viewpoint of the elderly person, which is quite uncommon. Initally, I found the chapters about the present intrusive. I was more interested in the chapters about the circus, which took place during the great depression. But both parts converge at the end. It turned out to be a unique way to flesh out a character, from both ends of his life. Sara Gruen puts me right there, at the circus, with all the excitment and sawdust. Circus life consists of moments of splender and long spells of toil, dirt and suffering. There is a strict class system in the circus. Performers at the top with private train cars and ordinary workers with no privileges, not even regular pay. But when an emergency occurs, there is great loyalty to the circus family and everyone pulls together. There is so many layers to this story. The scope of suffering connected to prohibation was much wider then I knew. Mental illness is addressed. The characters interact with great animals, who have their own stories. This book is quite a departure from Gruen's first two books, I can't wait to see what direction her next book takes.