Cannonball Read V: Book #7/52
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
4 stars: Very good. Would recommend.
I wasn't sure how I was going to like this book. It sounded interesting, but I was afraid it was going to be more of a romance than I care for. I am SO happy to say that I was totally wrong. It was mostly about the circus with some romance thrown in, but not overtaking the story.
I loved the circus as a kid and remember the excitement when they started setting up the tent in the field next to the elementary school. We'd all stand and watch them during our recess. I even got to ride an elephant once! So that's what drew me to this book.
The book starts with an old man named Jacob who is at a nursing home. A circus is setting up down the street and Jacob starts to reminisce about the summer of 1931 when he worked at the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. He was just about to graduate with his veterinary degree from Cornell when he finds out his parents were killed in a car accident. He walks out of his exams and hops a train that happens to house the Benzini Brothers circus.
The back side of the circus industry back then was pretty dark. Animal abuse ran rampant and Jacob does his best to help once he his hired to be the circus veterinarian. The treatment of the employees was probably even worse than the animals because the animals brought in money. The gritty circus underworld and all of the circus characters were really interesting.
Then we have Marlena. If this romance was more front and center in the novel, I would have probably hated it. Marlena was pretty bland. She's married to the ringleader, August, and he's pretty much batshit crazy. Of course Jacob falls in love with her, blah, blah. It was a little eye-rolling at times, but didn't really detract from the rest of the story too much.
Overall, I can see why this book was a bestseller and how it would appeal to a pretty broad audience.