Thanks to Bookouture for providing an e-ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Publication Date: July 7, 2020 ~ Genre: Historical fiction, romance
Paris, 1940. Twenty-year-old Michel Bonnet lives on the edge of the law, finding work where he can breaking in horses on the outskirts of the city. But when the Nazis invade, Michel takes refuge as a stowaway on a rickety train bound for the rural south. It’s a journey that will change his life forever.
The train is property of Le Cirque Neumann – a travelling circus owned by the troubled and irritable showman Werner Neumann. Neumann offers Michel a job caring for the company’s horses – a lucky break, but with an unusual condition attached. Michel must keep to himself and never speak of what he sees behind the glittering curtain of the big top.
But as Michel finds himself pulled into the strange and wondrous world of the great spectacular it becomes more difficult to keep his promise. Why does the man with the performing monkey never speak, and the sword swallower turn his face away? Who are the silent, shadowy figures who flit like moths between the wagons when the sun is down? It’s clear that Neumann is keeping his performers hidden away… but why? And how can Michel win the love of the beautiful and exotic trapeze artist Freida – the graceful, green-eyed star of Neuman’s spectacular – when he’s been forbidden to even meet her gaze?
An emotional and uplifting wartime novel – perfect for fans of Water for Elephants, The Nightingale and The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
1940’s France, the backdrop of WW2, Michel finds himself packed up and fleeing a Paris that’s expecting the imminent arrival of the Nazis. Inadvertently thrown in with a circus troupe, Michel eventually is allowed to stay, care for, and train horses for the performance. Michel, though various obstacles are thrown in his way, becomes close to many of the performers. Michel learns backstories of the close-nit group of outcasts and finds himself identifying and caring for them.
I struggled with this story, as it carries such a promising premise but I just didn’t feel that it completely lived up to it’s potential. I love the WW2 backdrop and the circus atmosphere piqued my interest immediately. Who doesn’t love a good circus story and make that circus shadowy and mysterious? Yes, please! However, I felt this story ultimately just wasn’t for me.
The characters didn’t feel well rounded, nor did they develop as the story progressed. Though we were given the backstory to some of the characters I never felt connected to them in any way. It was disappointing because I found myself wanting more from a character or a scene and just not getting it.
What I did like most was how Michel worked with the horses, as well as the descriptive scenes of the cities and country side. But when we get further into the romantic aspect, the horses fell by the wayside. When Michel joined the circus, events began to happen a bit too conveniently. Michel identifies two women he regards as attractive upon first stepping foot onto the train and eventually, both become his romantic partners in rather awkward ways. I found the romance to be very insta-lovey.
Overall, I enjoyed the descriptiveness and ambiance of this story but it did fall a bit short for me.