Thank you to the author for sending me a review copy of the book. I’m truly grateful. 🙂
The first thing you’ll notice about this book is its stunning cover. The second thing you’ll notice and one that will leave you in awe is that it is a stunning, sturdy hardcover. And open the book and flip through the pages and you’ll see the third and the fourth things that will intrigue you to no end. These are stories written in couplets! And there are illustrations! Just one glance at the phenomenal artwork and such lovely two-liners, and you’ll simply be bowled over!
Circus Folk & Village Freaks is written by Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal, a detail that you know from the title of this blog post but I want to say it again because of how amazing the writing style is. It is pure storytelling via poetry and each one of these 18 stories has a lesson to teach you. When I realized this, my expectations simply skyrocketed and there was no controlling them. Reading it brought me the realization that yes, sometimes, judging a book by its cover is completely justified. And this somehow brought a sense of peace to that cover-loving person within me.
Circus Folk & Village Freaks is a collection of 18 absurd short stories, each intertwined with a central thread that you’ll only realize a while into the third story. Each story tells us about one person who is considered a ‘village freak’ and how their life turned out. Some end up finding acceptance by working in the circus – a place where social ‘freaks’ are welcomed, and some end up living in a different lifestyle, each appropriate for what they want to do.
The biggest reason why I love this book is that every single story packs such a mighty punch that you did not see coming! From the first story, The Strange Case of Subramaniam, The Crocodile Man, in which a man who wrestled with a crocodile ends up show traits of one, to the very last story, The Circus Master, the story of the guy who runs the circus in question, every story has its own lessons in morality and a brand of amazing storytelling.
In their own ways, these stories have their foundations steeped in reality, while exposing the vile nature of invasive society, yet giving us a hopeful glimpse of what could be. You can learn about so many emotions and traits: selfishness, love, companionship, obscurity, joy, debilitating sorrow, self-love and so much more. Some of these stories are uplifting, some grim, some heartbreaking, and some a combination of all three. And when all these come together and show you that the people of these stories are of one world, they paint the realistic picture of a world with different personalities, each living with their own angels and demons.
With acceptance being such a tug of war between different groups of people today, this book tells you in no uncertain terms about why acceptance is needed and what the world is bound to come to if it’s absent. Acceptance is usually pulled back by beliefs and superstition, but break through those and it’s really easy to bring it into your life. Be it acceptance of people of different caste, religion, or sexuality, this book explores all of those while retaining that ache beneath that makes a story so wonderful to read despite the heartbreak.
Not to say that Circus Folk & Village Freaks has only grimness permeating through its stories. There’s humor too – one that is so unexpected, that you simply want to embrace it when you recover. And regardless of how much it warms or breaks your heart, every single one of these stories is amazingly poignant. And that, my friends, is how you do writing. Use that background thread to connect all of them while painting a vivid picture of the backgrounds of everyone who decided to join the Circus, for better or for worse.
The only thing that sort of pricked at my reading sense was that in a few places, the rhymes were a little off or forced. But since I cannot exactly pinpoint where it actually did, I can safely say that they have little or no effect on how I see the book as a whole.
Lovely, lovely, lovely book of 18 ‘twisted’ stories written in the form of rhyming couplets! Highly recommend these to anyone and everyone!
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Until next time, keep reading and add melodrama to your life. 🙂