Mariana, the fortune teller, makes herself invisible and drifts through the nighttime circus, listening in on conversations and watching over her beloved Shanghai, a fire-breathing dwarf who closely guards his secrets, even from Mariana’s second sight. Conjoined twins Atasha and Anna cling to each other and weep for their home and for their mother and father who sold them to the circus. Jakub, the circus manager and husband to Mariana, fears his wife’s gifts, grieves his own failures, and drinks to forget it all. The stories and closely guarded histories of the troupe of performers dance around each other until a love affair between Shanghai and Atasha destroys the delicate balance.
As secrets are revealed and old wounds are opened, the consequences are unbearable to some and liberating to others. Lyrically graceful and populated by vividly drawn characters, Cirkus is a haunting novel of devastating heartbreak and exquisite loveliness.
OK, it is about a dwarf, a gypsy fortune teller, conjoined twin teenage girls, all in one of those turn of the century (twentieth century) small traveling circuses that plied the rural areas of the USA, as well as Europe. It is a story about the trials and tribulations of side show “freaks” and other nomadic circus personnel. mostly of Czech origin, as they travel around the midwestern US entertaining the “rubes” and trying to deal with each other. It is full of melodramatic romance plots of unrequited love, frustrated passion and star crossed lovers.
Hard to pigeonhole it as to genre, but I would say fantasy, quasi-historical fiction, where dreams have a reality of their own, and it is all a bit surreal.
I enjoyed it, although the first half was a bit slow. But the last quarter was a toboggan ride, that’s for sure!