Friday, September 06, 2013

What we're reading: Circus!

Is there any more romantic notion secretly held by people young and old than to run away to join the circus? I mean, running away is one thing, but in this fantasy, destination is all. I don't think it's an accident in the current economy that circus books are experiencing a renaissance, and we've talked about a few recent ones here (The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, by Jonathan L. Howard, and Mechanique: The Circus Tresaulti, by Genevieve Valentine).

Then there is the opposite end of the circus tale--the evil circus (or carnival), from which you wish to escape, most memorably portrayed in the classic Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury, but also represented by Full Tilt, by Neal Shusterman, and The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events), by Lemony Snicket!

My favorite run-away-to-the-circus tale is A Stranger at Wildings (originally titled Kirkby's Changeling) by Madeleine Brent (otherwise known as Peter O'Donnell), which I read as a teen and recently revisited just for fun. At age 13, Chantal discovers the devastating truth about her parentage and is about to be sent to an orphanage, but decides instead to disappear into the world of the circus, this one headed for Hungary. We follow her career as a trapeze artist until age 18, when events conspire to change her life and send her back to England--but she's not sure she wants another change, especially if it means leaving her circus family. It's pure gothic fun, and definitely held up on second reading.

Other YA books on the subject: That Time I Joined the Circus, by J. J. Howard (from our teen new book shelves, prompting this blog entry--read my review), Wonder When You'll Miss Me, by Amanda Davis, Henrietta Hornbuckle's Circus of Life, by Michael de Guzman, not to mention series like Cirque du Freak, by Darren Shan.

Other adult books in this sub-genre: Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen (also available as both an audio book and a film), Meridon (Wideacre trilogy #3, and one of my personal favorites because she is both a gypsy and a bareback rider), by popular writer Philippa Gregory, and The Blue Moon Circus, by Michael Raleigh.

There's a fairly comprehensive list on Goodreads of "circus and carnival books" you might want to visit, if this is a favorite escapist topic for you as well!

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