This is a historical- romance novel set in the time of The Great Depression. I heard about the movie and I decided to read the book first. It’s a habit I have to read the book and only then watch the movie adaptation. The other way around would mean I already know the story, which takes all the fun out reading the book. The author has painted a very real picture of what circus life used to be in the 1930’s, when circuses where regarded as a grand spectacle.
The story is told through the eyes of Jacob Jankowski. Jacob, 93 years old and living in a nursing home, talks about his life and memories of when he was in his twenties. The 23 year old Jacob was studying for a degree in veterinary science in Cornell. Days before he gets his degree his parents are killed in a car accident and he learns that the bank has taken over his house and his father’s practice. He runs away and jumps abroad a train to start a new life in a new place. He learns that the train is, in fact, a circus train and with the help of Camel (one of the first people Jacob meets when he jumps the train) he gets a job with the circus called “Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth”.
August, the animal trainer, gives Jacob the job of looking after the animals. August has a split personality, he can be charming at times and at other times he would take his anger out by being cruel to his animals and also Marlena, his wife. Marlena is a star performer in the show and Jacob falls in love with her. Jacob duties increase after the circus acquires an elephant named Rosie who is very intelligent but only understands Polish. The story is about Jacob and Marlena’s love and their attempt to start a new life, and how life goes on within a circus.
The author’s research work has paid off which is evident from the details used to describe the circus life. I also loved the humor in the way Jacob talks about getting old. I finished the book in summer but haven’t watched the movie yet, so can’t comment on whether Robert Pattinson and Resse Witherspoon did a good job of bringing the characters to life.I enjoyed reading this novel and if you like a bit of history and/or romance, you too will like reading it.