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Book Review: Love in the Elephant Tent by Kathleen Cremonesi (4/5)

12 Sep

I love circus books. Goodreads recommended this one to me and I was really excited that my library had it as an ebook. It took me four months to read it only because I read it slowly, before doctors’ appointments and during some lunch breaks. It wasn’t a long time because I didn’t enjoy the story, just because I was reading it in small snatches. I would say I sped up my reading toward the end, excited to see how it ended and also excited to start something new when I finished.

Cover image via Goodreads

Love in the Elephant Tent: How Running Away with the Circus Brought Me Home by Kathleen Cremonesi

Summary from Goodreads:

Kathleen Cremonesi knew early on she wanted to be different. Determined to avoid following in her mother’s footsteps to an ill-fated marriage, Kathleen left Oregon in her early 20s to travel across Europe. On a whim, this former administrative assistant with wanderlust took a job as a dancer in an Italian circus and, working her way up, became an ostrich-riding, shark-taming showgirl.

Kathleen bonds with the exotic animals that could strike and kill at any moment, but instead bring her a peace she has never known. And when she stumbles into the arms of Stefano, the sexy elephant keeper, she finds a man who understands her wild spirit.

I’m glad I read this one. Kathleen has a unique story and it’s good that she got to share it. I don’t know many people who traveled with an Italian circus where the culture, language, and animals were all foreign. Cremonesi has a great memory and I’m sure her journals served her well in recalling her story. Her love story with Stefano is beautiful and very real. I found myself relating to her relationship struggles though mine never took place with sharks and acrobats around!

I thought Kathleen portrayed herself and Stefano in a very realistic light. They weren’t perfect and Kathleen admitted when she made mistakes. Even though Stefano wasn’t perfect, she still loved him. They weren’t always happy, but they made do. I think these are real parts of a relationship. It would have been unbelievable if she had a whirlwind romance in Italy that never turned sour in any way. I’m glad this book wasn’t that.

I almost never say that the protagonist is my favorite character, but I might say Kathleen was my favorite in this book. She was very relatable despite being very different from me. Her life and mine are 100% different but she captured her emotions very well and made it easy to sympathize with her and feel passion for the things she loved. I rooted for her and wanted only good things for her.

I thought it was realistic that Kathleen and Stefano went through some rough times. He was jealous of her love for her family and she was jealous of his love for the elephants. I can think of things in my relationship that I’m unnaturally jealous of (football and Pokemon Go come to mind). And that can be hard sometimes and to overcome the emotions and difficulties are part of growing up, the way Kathleen and Stefano were eventually able to do.

Kathleen Cremonesi Image via Twitter

I enjoyed Kathleen’s slow acceptance of Italian culture. She focused a lot on her difficulty with the language at first but that slowly faded. Then it was her opinions on food and gender roles. Being bilingual and bicultural are completely different things and I liked how Kathleen explored her struggle with both.

A bit of a spoiler here, so skip this paragraph if you’d like. My least favorite part was when the two were separated and Kathleen had another relationship. Hearing about her emotionless intimacies made me sad and when she thought she was pregnant, my heart almost broke for her and Stefano. It was the only time I was mad at Kathleen.

 

I think a lot of people would assume a fling while touring Europe on a whim could never turn into something serious but Kathleen and Stefano disproved that. Their relationship may have started out as ‘something fun to do while we’re here’ but it turned into something very real and lasting. I think it’s a good message to always be open to love, no matter where you are. Kathleen would have missed out on a lifetime of love if she jumped around Europe looking for a new thrill.

Writer’s Takeaway: Memoirs that cover a time well in the past can sometimes paint a very rosy picture. I know Wild was accused of this. I think the journals Kathleen kept let her memories come back to her very sharply and it kept the reality and uncomfortable moments very vivid in her mind. I appreciated that reality in her book.

A fun memoir (a favorite genre) at a circus (a favorite setting). Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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Love in The Elephant Tent by Kathleen Cremonsi – Blog Tour | Minding My Peas
Review and Author Interview: Love in the Elephant Tent by Kathleen Cremonesi | The Book Binder’s Daughter