Although I thoroughly enjoyed this book and thought it was beautifully written, it didn’t really leave me with much of an opinion. It’s hard to say whether this is because of the writing or the very succinct writing of the plot and story. Many times the books that leave me wanting more are the books that I desperately cling to because I don’t know the happily ever after.
In this book you get everything and it’s great, but the author wrapped the story up in a perfect finite package with only a hint of a what’s next, which was great at the end, but not enough to leave me wowed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really glad I read it and can’t believe it took me this long to jump on the band wagon and I would recommend it to everyone, I’m just sort of lackadaisical about it. There were two great things that stood out for me, the minor characters (and animals) and the juxtaposition of the old Jacob and the young Jacob.
As usual, any novel with strong/distinct minor characters makes me happy. And this novel had exceptional minor characters. And even more so, I felt the author did an amazing job bringing the animals to life on the page, not only as animals, but as characters in their own rights. I, of course, fell in love with Rosie and all of the other animals we were introduced to, even Rex the old toothless lion. And I desperately wanted to murder Augustus throughout the novel for his cruelty to the animals and to other people. I won’t say more, but I didn’t realize in the prologue which characters were which and needless to say I cheered quite a bit when it became clear!
As much as I loved the minor characters, nothing can approach the awesomeness that is Jacob Jankowski as an old man. I loved how much of a firecracker he was and yet he had such an emotional sensitivity to his age and his past. I think the most striking scene is when he’s going to eat his breakfast one morning in bed and he sees the liver spots all over his hands and he just turns on his side and stares out the window. It was incredibly heartbreaking. His nostalgia for the circus and a time period most people are not nostalgic for was infectious and made the book that much more beautiful as I approached the ending.
Recommendation: Definitely check it out; I can see why so many book groups have read it and can see an amazingly wonderful conversation surrounding the time period and what happened in the novel.
Opening Line: “Only three people were left under the red and white awning of the grease joint: Grady, me, and the fry cook.”
Closing Line: “It’s like Charlie told the cop. For this old man, this is home.” (Whited out.)