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#reviewsdayTuesday: Circus by Claire Battershill

What’s This Book About? 

15798118As they transport us from a crowded airport departure lounge to the stillness of the British Museum, and from the spectacle of the Winter Olympics to the modesty of a local Miniatureland, these radiant stories explore the often surprising things we’re willing to do for love and human connection. Fed up with his long history of failed blind dates, a shy English bureaucrat gives himself thirty-one days to find love on the Internet. A father buys his daughter a blue plastic tent to ready her for outdoor adventure, but neither is prepared when the tent becomes a neighbourhood sensation. The world of competitive sports provides the backdrop for a young man’s coming of age in “Two-Man Luge: A Love Story.” And in the award-winning title story, the granddaughter of a former circus performer (who played the role of a man-wrestling bear) finds herself grappling with the capriciousness of life and love.

At once witty, tender-hearted, and profound, these stories are filled with a memorable and all-too-human cast of characters on the cusp of enormous change – whether they’re ready or not. Written in spare yet startling language, Circus is a beautiful reminder that sometimes everyday life can be the greatest show on Earth.

Why Should I Read This?

A wonderfully whimsical collection of short stories from the CBC Literary Award for Short Fiction, “Circus” is a carefully crafted series of stories that will grab your attention. Battershill is excellent at taking an everyday life event and turning it sideways, showing us the quirkiness of life and challenging us to look at things a little differently. Her stories are a mix of humour, thoughtfulness and poignancy, with each tale a fully formed entity that leaves you longing for more.

Her characters are a mix of the familiar and the absurd, all rolled up into one. You meet a father and his daughter, who connect over a simple blue tent, a gift that does not disappoint (for once) and one that changes their relationship while providing enlightenment and comfort to the neighbourhood. Later, you encounter a tour guide in a museum of miniatures, who amusingly details each exhibit until you begin to realize the importance of each item in her own life. Each story is beautifully crafted, and each gives you a glimpse into something beneath the surface.

You are dropped into this world, and sometimes just as abruptly pulled out of it, but I didn’t mind that. Sometimes all you need is a taste of whimsy to whet your appetite, and you are then ready to move on, to return to the realities of life that exist for everyone under the surface. Circus is a wonderful read for anyone looking for  for something nuanced and perfectly formed, like a delicious piece of chocolate that you savour in small bites.

Give Me a Quote or Two to Convince Me

“They climb back into the Toyota. Not the most ninja-appropriate vehicle, Edward decides, momentarily regretting the pine-scented cardboard tree hanging from the rear-view mirror. But then, Edward himself is still wearing an argyle sweater-vest, so even the Batmobile or James Bond’s Aston Martin would have done little to counteract the quaint exterior of their research expedition. Ninjas have many enviable skills, but peer-reviewed articles are not, Edward supposes, their usual contributions to culture.” ~ ~ The Collective Name for Ninjas

“When her mother talks about her circus days, it is with a kind of dutiful resignation. “Yes,” she says, “It was difficult being brought up by a bear cub. Harder than you can really imagine, you of a regular human childhood.” ~ Circus

“The New York version of her was slim, with bare, smooth legs rather than thick, sturdy calves in support socks. And surely as soon as the plane touched down at JFK, she would instantly know how to apply liquid eyeliner precisely and her hair would emerge in elegant finger waves when she lifted her head from the neck pillow. And once they arrived in the metropolis, she and Calvin would weave as naturally as shoaling fish through the crowds of glimmering bodies, darting and disappearing in the multitude.” ~ Quite Everyday Looking

Circus is published by McClelland and Stewart, a division of Random House of Canada. It may be purchased from your friendly indie bookstore or other fine retailers. ISBN: 9780771012785 , 224 pages. 

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Categorised in: #reviewsdayTuesday, Reviews

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