The Grand Gypsy – Entered in 2017 ATAI Book Award Contest

5 Stars

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Ottavio Gesmundo with Ottavio Canestrelli

The Grand Gypsy: A Memoir is the enchanting story of Ottavio Canestrelli, an Italian circus performer. Born into a circus family several generations long, Canestrelli was raised under a makeshift big-top, performing alongside his family members and a colorful menagerie. As an adult, he traveled the world, both as a performer and while in the army. He shares his stories of growing up in a circus, living and fighting through both World Wars, crossing paths with grand historical figures like Gandhi, and carrying on the legacy of the Canestrelli Circus. After Canestrelli passed away, his grandson, Ottavio Gesmundo, polished and published his grandfather’s memoir, honoring the man he knew as The Grand Gypsy.

This book opens with a quote by author, historian, and editor, Dominique Jando: “Artists from old Italian circus families are the keepers of a precious wealth of historical knowledge.” That alone sums up Ottavio Canestrelli’s memoir perfectly. His words are, quite simply, precious. His life experiences and unique voice in sharing them help shed a new light on one of the most fascinating and tumultuous eras in history. Peppered with additional text from his grandson, Gesmundo, and a plethora of captivating historical photographs, The Grand Gypsy is an outstanding literary experience from beginning to end.

The Grand Gypsy is equal parts an entertaining portrait of circus life, a war drama, a heartwarming snapshot of family life, and a thrilling memoir. By the end of the book, Ottavio and the Canestrelli family feel welcome and familiar, as if all who read The Grand Gypsy: A Memoir are now truly a part of the Canestrelli legacy, too.

Originally critiqued by a member of the Authors Talk About It team.

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