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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 4 April 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an excellent book that is a pleasure to read. There is no central character but several, well developed, characters and their dialogue and actions seem incredibly believable which makes the book all the more frightening to read.

There are no heroes or villains in this book, just various people, often acting in their own interests, trying to make the best of the situation they find themselves in. Sometimes they are successful, sometimes things just get worse but all the way through I found myself wanting to read just one more chapter to find out what was going to happen.

The translation seems very good and the flow of the book is excellent. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 23 March 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
To understand this book fully one needs to be aware of some of Hans Fallada's other work and of the period when he was writing. His most popular translated books are without doubt Alone in Berlin, and Little Man, What Now? The period was in the years preceding the second word war in the Weimar Republic in Germany. They all describe in some way the decent into the Nazi abyss, facilitated by the decline in employment and living standards resulting in Germany from the aftermath of the first war.

This book relates the imagined events set in a small provincial town that arise from the revolt on one representative group, the farmers, and their treatment by the administration and the police. The narrative style is unusual, being largely based on reported speech, a literary device which works well here. The dark brooding story is complex and I found the multiplicity of important named characters difficult to follow. The book would benefit from a list of characters and their allegiances.

It is not an easy book to read. The story is tortuous, detailed, and complex but the effort is worth it, although I think that at the end I was a little unsure of some of the finer details because of the complexity, but I suspect this too was really the case in the type of scenario described. It is not easy to read also because it is a big book, nearly 600 pages, and heavy to hold.

The writing is a fluid and rhythmic as his other works, the translation, by Michael Hoffman, worthy of the original and lyrical. I am grateful to Penguin for making this work available in English.
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VINE VOICEon 14 May 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
First published in 1931, this book is based on the author's own experiences of the small town where he worked as a journalist. He reported and experienced at first hand the economic crisis which led to the demonstration by poor local farmers and its subsequent aftermath. This book is about greed, bribery, brutality and corruption in politics - the ever strengthening Nazis and the Communists who fought them in the streets. The characters are believable and the translation has a contemporary feel to it. Very enjoyable.
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VINE VOICEon 7 March 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Having read and loved Alone In Berlin I was really looking forward to this and I have not been disappointed. Fallada's complex tale of a farmer's boycott in a small town in Bavaria paints a masterly portrait of German life during the Weimar Republic,probably a period most non-Germans are only familiar with from Cabaret.The characters,farmers,politicians,journalists and businessmen alike, are mostly unlikable,although completely real and believable, and it is easy to see how in the election that ocurred shortly after the year in which the novel is set Germans ended up voting for extreme parties at the expense of the moderates.And there is,of course, a chilling parallel to modern times and people's growing dis-satisfaction with the conventional parties on both sides of the Atlantic.

I've read a few books recently that though well written seemed to be straining to be found "literary", but Fallada's writing,like Graham Greene's, and perhaps because of their shared journalistic background,seems absolutely effortless.Fallada was an absolutely natural writer and tale teller and the novel truly is a page turner as he manages to make a fascinating story out of a series of prosaic events.Michael Hoffman's translation is,by and large,as good as the one he did for Alone In Berlin, but there are some anachronisms in the slang,which jar and which brought me up short - I particularly disliked his use of the expression "toast" and I would think that the slang would have been better with what was common to the period.That aside, I have no criticisms of the book.

This won't be to everyone's taste, not even to all his fans of Alone In Berlin;what lessons there are here are more subtly presented,the people are ordinary and painted in shades of grey and there is no hero to guide the reader through the moral maze,but I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to gain some understanding of what life was really like in Germany in 1929 and how easy it was for the country to slip into fascism as people searched for easy answers to difficult questions.
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VINE VOICEon 21 February 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
To start with there are a lot of characters involved in this tale of life in small town Germany in the late 1920s. This may at first seem daunting but each character weaves their own thread into the fabric of the story and each one is well worth relishing while reading.

The foreword does give some background to the book and author. Certainly it was written during an interesting era however as most of the history centres around what happened during the next few years this sheds a light on the times leading up to that. The circus of the title highlights the methods used by one of the town newspapers when slighted over advertising space. Indeed much humour is to be had at the current issues with our own newspaper morality.

As mentioned, this story reminded me somewhat of Heimat, a German series (which took in a much longer breadth of time than this book) which centred on the lives of a small community - shown a few years ago for anyone interested in where this story may lead, it would be worth watching.
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on 6 February 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Like most, I discovered Fallada by reading Alone in Berlin. While not all our book group enjoyed it, I fell in love. This author seems to be incapable of writing anything but beautifully crafted and somehow challenging prose. This isn't something you can race though, rather a novel to be savoured. Also not one to read on the train - my copy is a beast of a book! I won't rehash the plot, as others have, but needless to say this is strong and solid plot, and ties up well at the end. Satisfying and completely gorgeous book. Recommended to those who like a long luxurious read.
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VINE VOICEon 13 February 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Of all the books I read last year, my favourite was Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin. It was an exciting, moving and powerful book, and when I saw that there was a new translation of another of Fallada's novels, A Small Circus, I couldn't wait to read it.

A Small Circus is set in and around Altholm, a fictional German town, in 1929. Within the town there are lots of different groups and factions who are all in conflict with each other, including the mayor, various political parties, farmers, journalists and the police. None of these opposing groups are able to cooperate and work together. The novel describes the events leading up to and following a demonstration by the protesting farmers which ends in violence, causing things to quickly spiral out of control.

I have to admit, based on the synopsis alone this was not the kind of book I would normally have chosen to read but I decided to give it a chance anyway, remembering how much I had loved Alone in Berlin. And I really wanted to love A Small Circus too, but I have to be honest and say that, for me, this book was a big disappointment. I found the plot confusing and difficult to follow, partly because of my lack of knowledge of early 20th century Germany and the politics involved, but also because so much of the story was told through dialogue. Almost two thirds of the novel is written in the form of dialogue (according to the Foreword) and it was just too much for me.

I also disliked the translation style. Obviously I haven't read the original German edition of this book from 1931 so I don't know what Fallada's actual writing was like, but this translation feels too modern and full of words and phrases that I wouldn't have thought would have been used at the time. I'm sure there will be a lot of other readers who will love this lively, slang-filled style, but it didn't have any appeal for me personally.

A bigger problem for me was that there wasn't a single character in the book that I liked. I can see that I probably wasn't intended to like them, and this was maybe the whole point of the story (to show the effects of hatred, violence and corruption on a small town and how this was being replicated across Germany, opening the way for the Nazis), but it didn't make it much fun to read. It's really important for me to have at least one or two characters that I can enjoy reading about or connect with in some way, but without exception I found everyone in A Small Circus greedy and selfish, with few or no redeeming qualities. And not only were there no heroes to side with, there were no great villains that I could love to hate either - just a lot of very unpleasant people.

I want to finish this very negative review by pointing out that although I didn't enjoy it very much I didn't actually think this was a bad book. For the right type of reader, A Small Circus would probably be a fascinating read. Unfortunately I was obviously not the right type of reader for this book, though I think I would still be prepared to try more of Fallada's novels in the future.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 March 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I wanted to read this because Alone in Berlin was tremendously good. A Small Circus has its moments, but is nothing like as brilliant. There are so many characters, I tended to lose track at times and had to keep referring back to see who was saying what (there is an awful lot of dialogue), and the book is far too long; so much of it - the trial, especially - was horribly wordy and would have benefitted enormously from a really good edit.

Which is not to say it's completely unreadable. It has its moments; there is humour - very black humour, admittedly - when the clouds part on the overwhelmingly depressing tone and these dislikeable characters briefly shine.

I think a lot of the problems I had were that I'm no expert on the place and time, and I think, to some extent, you need to be to get the most from this novel. I'm sure - when the book was written, when the events of these times were so much fresher on the public mind - it would have all made a great deal more sense. The forward is invaluable in placing this book in its setting and time; without the forward, I would have been lost.

The style is decidedly quirky; consciously modern - an interpretation, I suspect, rather than a translation. It might well have been that the very dialogue-heavy narrative appeared archaic and stodgy in direct translation, and the slangy style was deliberately done to inject some pep and vigour into it. If so, I'm afraid it doesn't really work; rather than enlivening the 80 year old language, it just becomes incongruous and at times uncomfortable, like a pensioner in a leather miniskirt and fishnets.

Despite all of the above, this is not a horrible book; if you have a genuine love for, and knowledge of this period of time, you may well love it. Myself, I found it incredibly depressing; the characters, at best, dislikeable, at worst, pure evil, and the storytelling over-written and slow.
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on 19 October 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A novel in dire need of a strict editor. Fallada stacks too many similar characters and digressions into an overly long novel. This makes for often tedious reading with thinly fleshed out characterisation and unrealistic set-pieces. There needed to be space for the more involving characters to breathe.
A very flawed first draft, with a better book constantly struggling to come out. Something very staged and mannered about the writing gives it a rather wooden feel. There are often real sparks of brilliance, but often peter out into clunky farce. Alone in Berlin suffered similar faults but not to the extent A Small Cirus stumbles over itself. Alone in Berlin is a far superior work.
At times the internecine back-biting of a small town stands as a microcosm for Germany's descent into war. Most times it's an excuse for Fallada to cram in every anecdote he'd heard whilst working as a journalist. Often it feels like a novel written to be serialized in a newspaper, padded out with extraneous detail; As if Fallada was being paid by the word.
Certainly not realist in style, better characterised as a rambling farce where every extra wants a line of dialogue. Fallada was a brilliantly talented author, but perhaps to infatuated with his writing.
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on 22 March 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Poignant, moving, compelling and beautifully written (hats off to the translator) I was amazed that I hadn't heard of Hans Fallada before. I'll be seeking out his other works.
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