Sherry (sethurner)'s Reviews > The Circus Fire: A True Story of an American Tragedy

The Circus Fire by Stewart O'Nan
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's review
Oct 31, 08

it was amazing
bookshelves: nonfiction, history
Read in January, 2001

I listened to Circus Fire in audio format in 2001, then my husband brought the actual book home from the library and I was caught up once more by the photographs, newspaper clippings and diagrams that accompany the text in this nonfiction account of a horrific circus fire in Hartford, Connecticut in 1946. O'Nan did meticulous research and deftly tells a story that is at once fascinating, horrific, and very human. I thought the excerpt from Ray Bradbury's classic, Something Wicked This Way Comes was perfect to set the stage:

"A carnival should be all growls, roars like timberlands stacked, bundled, rolled and crashed, great explosions of lion dust, men ablaze with working anger, pop bottles jangling, horse buckles shivering, engines and elephants in full stampede through rains of sweat while zebras neighed and trembled like cage trapped in cage.

But this was like old movies, the silent theater haunted with black and white ghosts, silvery mouths opening to let moonlight smoke out, gestures made in silence so hushed you could hear the wind fizz the hair on your cheeks.

More shadows rustled from the train, passing the animal cages where darkness prowled with unlit eye and the calliope stood mute save for the faintest idiot tune the breeze piped wandering up the flue.

The ringmaster stood in the middle of the land. The balloon like a vast moldy green cheese stood fixed to the sky, Then - darkness came."


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