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The Astonishing Life of August March

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If I were to listen to the synopsis of this book, I call it far-fetched and yet Jackson has created a topsy-turvy New York City world in which its more magical and humorous than crazy.  The book is so tightly written with no boring parts or unnecessary verbiage. I have a hard time believing it is a debut novel.
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Born, and subsequently abandoned, in the Scarsenguard Theater on West Forty-Third Street in New York City, August March grew up as a literal child of the theater, raised by the employees and actors who frequented the halls and stage.  As you can imagine, growing up in a theater can result in one leading a rather unusual, if not to say astonishing, life ... and such is the case with August March.  

Aaron Jackson's debut novel, The Astonishing Life of August March, follows the boy from birth into adulthood, with plenty of escapades along the way.  As a strange child with a rather lofty vocabulary (having the theater as your only source of education will do that to you), August finds himself orphaned and thrown out onto the streets of New York.  From there he gets in good with a gang of pickpockets and ruffians, but in an odd turn of events, eventually finds himself placed in a prestigious boarding school.  However, what to do as an adult?  Ahhh, this is the biggest heist of them all.  Yes, August's life truly is astonishing.  

The Astonishing Life of August March is a grand, pompous book, and is infused with humor, plenty of colorful language, and some outlandish plot lines.  Not fully reading the blurb before jumping into this novel, I expected August March's life to take the high road at every turn, but readers be warned ... this book takes the low, making this novel feel as darkly humorous and dirty as the streets of New York.  What makes August's life so astonishing is not that he overcame his obstacles and led a life of grandeur, but rather than he succumbed to his fate ... in a most astonishing way.  That is to say that Jackson makes a rough upbringing and a life of crime lighthearted and amusing. 

I personally didn't love The Astonishing Life of August March, but I prefer my realistic fiction to be more grounded in reality.  That's not to say it is a bad book because that is not the case.  Rather, this one is for readers who enjoy lofty, unbelievable tales steeped in outlandish and comical plot lines.  This novel would probably make for a pretty entertaining blockbuster film.  

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
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Born literally in the theater in between curtain calls young August is discovered among the laundry of the lead in a play at a old and tired theater in New York. The laundress reluctantly comes to care and protect young August . The boy comes to age in a most unusual way,learning long passages and dialog instead of math and science. The Scarsenguard and it’s evolution provide  a touchstone to the story, as does the owners who transport her to a Canteen in wartime and an upscale hotel when prosperity reigns. Young August is not unlike a modern Tom Sawyer scuttled back and forth between benefactors and saviors when the waters of transition become rough. A wistful glance into a picture perfect house complete with a family sets the stage for adventure and love for young August. The storytelling here is on par with anything Mr Twain could have reported and we are just as transfixed with the outcome. Happy reading
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What a delight it has been to spend time with August March. It has been awhile since a character's witty barbs and turns of phrase have made me laugh out loud and already I am mourning the loss of this resilient and endearing character. Yes, the whole premise of this book is a bit implausible but that is part of its magic. The ragtag cast of characters and story is so good, I never questioned just how a baby could possibly subsist on champagne & living in a drawer--it's part of the charm! The characters are as unique as they are memorable and the dialogue is divine. As August would say, "Blast  and double damnation" I'm sad this book is over.
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"The Astonishing Life of August March" by Aaron Jackson, Harper, 288 pages, April 7, 2020.

An actress, Vivian Fair, secretly gives birth during a performance. It is the 1930s. She hadn't told anyone about the pregnancy and the hoop skirts of her costume hid her figure.

She abandons the baby in a laundry basket, where he is found by the laundress, Eugenia Butler. Eugenia keeps him in the theater, alone at night, so his crying doesn't wake her. She grows fond of the child, and makes up a story about a spirit haunting the theater. August learns speeches from Shakespeare before he learns the alphabet.

When he contrives to meet his favorite actor, Reginald Percyfoot, Percyfoot finds out the secret but agrees that he won't turn them over to child protective services. Percyfoot begins teaching August. But he has to leave for a part in a Hollywood movie. The U.S. gets involved in World War II and the theater is converted to a recreational place for soldiers.

August is a teenager before he goes outside of the theater. To survive, he has to rely on strangers.

While this is slightly reminiscent of one of my favorite books, "A Prayer for Owen Meany" by John Irving, it isn't as good. I didn't engage with the characters and it is too far-fetched.

In accordance with FTC guidelines, the advance reader's edition of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a review.
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When an actress abandons her baby in a 1930s New York City theatre, an old seamstress informally adopts the child although she doesn't take him into her home. Around his birthday the seamstress, Eugenia Butler, looks at a calendar and decides to name him August March. As the years pass, August grows up hidden in the theatre, sometimes pretending to be a ghost, until Eugenia dies and he's on his own.
An actor, a friend of Eugenia's, offers some support but his theatre engagements in other cities prevent him from doing much but attempting to find August who, to survive, has become a petty thief.
When August in in his teens and receives a proper education at a boarding school, he realizes all he's missed out on, but despite lacking certain academic and social skills he's his own person and a character in his own right. August grows into adulthood not knowing much about family ties or fractions or ambition, but he learns to recognize love and life's purpose.
I started this book one week ago, and after a slow start I read the remainder of the book in one day and found it impossible to put down. I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and I'm happy to have had this opportunity. August March is a character I won't soon forget.
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Many thanks to the publisher as well as NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. Opinions reflected here are my own.

The Astonishing Life of August March is a fun journey through a fairytale-like theater world of NYC in the middle of the 20th century. A child is abandoned by his actress mother in the dressing room of the Scarsenguard Theater, where he is discovered and raised by a laundress with questionable judgement and downright objectionable parenting skills. Still, they make the best of it, and August is raised in the back halls of the Scarsenguard, where he grows to love everything about the theater with the help of actor and mentor Sir Reginald Percyfoot. Soon, though, Sir Reginald moves away and the old laundress dies and a wrecking ball crashes through the walls of the Scarsenguard... and August must venture out on his own for the first time to try and carve out a life for himself in post-WWII New York City.

This book strikes exactly the sort of inane and irreverent tone my damaged little heart craves, leading me to hit the “request” button practically before I’d finished reading the description. Fellow readers, it was not time wasted. August March is an unexpected and sometimes puzzling tale, filled with twists and turns as a completely unmoored and woefully unprepared August tries to navigate life in the city. However what really made this work for me is the devilishly understated humor that infuses practically every line. I laughed out loud so often, I’m pretty sure my partner thinks there’s something wrong with me. He’s not wrong—but it’s still a great book.
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August March, a newborn, is abandoned by his actress mother,  who doesn’t want to be bothered with a child to ruin her career. Left in her dressing room to fend for himself,  August cries because he is hungry, and his life is changed forever. The stage laundress hears his cries and takes him under her wing, but never takes him home with her. This is an “astonishing” story of  August, growing up behind the scenes, fending for himself and befriending a couple of people who’ll change his life forever. What a great book. I was fascinated with theater scenes, tales of NY, and the perseverance of this young boy to survive! Be sure to read this book. You won’t be disappointed.
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Very fast read, delightfully funny at times this book had many moments of disbelief but once look at in a different perspective it’s very enjoyable! Great read!
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The show must go on! During the intermission of a performance at the Scarsenguard Theater located on West Forty-Third Street, New York City, Vivian Fair birthed a baby boy she promptly placed in a basket of blouses. Ms. Fair was "back in the wings just in time for places...the play over...[while] removing her wig...the baby's cry...She'd nearly forgotten...A producer...in the audience tonight. From Hollywood!" The year, 1933.

Eugenia Butler, the theater's ancient laundress, discovered the baby while gathering the starlet's untidy garments. "Using a discarded brassiere, Eugenia Butler fashioned a papoose for the child and carried him...crooning half-forgotten snippets of lullabies...". Later, she left the newborn in a crib in the prop closet and headed for home. She decided to keep him.

How could she hide the child she named August March? For starters, she convinced the self-absorbed actors, stage managers and crew that August's cries were those of a "randy tomcat". At age three, August was becoming "insatiably curious". To keep things under wraps, Eugenia cooked up a plan. She dressed August in a period costume and covered him in flour. The Legend of the Scarsenguard Theater 'Spirit' was born. "...He's here...He comes at night...years ago a young boy died in this very theater."

Being raised in the theater, August learned to talk from watching plays and adopting a way of speaking based upon the works of Wilde, Shakespeare, and Ibsen. His favorite play was King Lear with lead actor, Sir Reginald Percyfoot. Upon meeting August, Sir Reginald found the precocious six year old to be "A charming child with such a breadth of knowledge of the theater". He was determined to start August's schooling by providing him with "a miniature library of mostly classic books for new readers". Eugenia Butler, laundress and Sir Reginald Percyfoot, actor extraordinaire were August's "so called parents" but August's residence was the theater.

In 1942, August's life would abruptly change when Mr. Barreth, owner of the Scarsenguard Theater,
contributed to the war effort by allowing the theater's backstage to be converted into a soldier's recreation center. "The Backstage Bistro" provided August with new and exciting learning experiences, however, soon Mr. Barreth would make a decision that would be devastating to August's well being.

In true Dickensian style, August March's journey was a daily struggle. He had to live by his wits, battling for food, shelter and a direction in life. He wore many different hats, some legal, some not so much. Would August land on his feet?

"The Astonishing Life of August March" by Aaron Jackson is a fantastic debut novel. August was a very likable, but flawed character who was dealt a difficult hand in life. Eugenia and Sir Reginald loved him in their own way, however, did not provide August with what he needed most. This tome was an excellent read I highly recommend.

Thank you HarperCollins Publishers and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "The Astonishing Life of August March".
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Loved this! Like a grown up version of a children’s book - in the BEST way possible. Already counting down the release date so I can share with my book club. It’s a keeper.
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This book totally BLEW ME AWAY! I don’t usually read fiction without any element of fantasy in it, and I also detest historical fiction - but this book was an amazing historical fiction debut that I LOVED from start to finish. I went into this being a fan of the author Aaron Jackson from his time on The Opposition, and now I’m an eternal fan of his written works as well.

SPOILER-FREE SUMMARY
Abandoned as an infant by his actress mother in her theater dressing room, August March was raised by an ancient laundress. Highly intelligent, a tad feral, August is a true child of the theater –able to recite Shakespeare before he knew the alphabet. But like all productions, August’s wondrous time inside the theater comes to a close, and he finds himself in the wilds of postwar New York City, where he quickly rises from pickpocket street urchin to star student at the stuffiest boarding school in the nation. To survive, August must rely upon the kindness of strangers, only some of whom have his best interests at heart. As he grows up, his heart begins to yearn for love—which he may or may not finally find in a clever and gifted con artist.

This book played as a movie (or dare I say, a play?) in my head and I also found the writing to be on par with some of the best authors of classic novels and some of the best books that I’ve read personally. I absolutely loved reading August’s story. I loved the writing style, the humor, the plot twists, and I just loved August himself! The only complaint I could mention would be that a few sections of the book confused me a bit in the order they were written. Maybe two or three sections but nothing major or unmanageable.

Please read this book if you like historical fiction featuring morally grey, sarcastic ruffian protagonists living in New York.
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I received this from Netgalley.com for a review.

"Abandoned as an infant by his actress mother in her theater dressing room, August March was raised by an ancient laundress. Highly intelligent, a tad feral, August is a true child of the theater –able to recite Shakespeare before he knew the alphabet."

Well, that was fun. Quite a few laugh out loud moments and others just left me shaking my head at August's antics, there was a mystical element about him when he was young.

4☆
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The best word I can think of for this book is unique. It took me a little while to decide if I was enjoying it, but it definitely grabbed my attention from the first page. Once I realized I had to suspend all disbelief and treat this as a fairy tale, I was thoroughly entertained. The writing is smart and witty. The character of August March is complicated. He is at times tragic, at times crass and infuriating, and at times hilarious and hapless. In the end though, you can't help but root for him. At its core this is novel about finding your way in the world, and everyone's need for love and acceptance.
If you are looking for something out of the ordinary, with a quirky yet lovable and charming protagonist, this is worth the read. Aaron Jackson will draw you in, keep you interested and make you laugh. The book is a page turner. You are along for the ride as the story twists and turns and finally brings you to a very satisfying end.
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In this sweet, although sometimes vulgar, rags-to-riches story, August March’s bizzare and astonishing story will be sure to evoke a broad range of emotions. It begins in 1930’s New York when his actress mother gives birth to and immediately abandons him. August is cared for by the theater’s elderly laundress, Eugenia Butler and an actor named Sir Reginal Percyfoot. When Eugenia dies, and the theater is demolished, August must leave the only home he’s ever known and learn to live in the world. Sir Reginald was away making a film at the time and August survives alone on the streets for many years. When the two reunite, Sir Reginald enrolls August in a prestigious boarding school. After graduation, August joins forces with a woman named Penny and they perform elaborate heists. 

“He’s a remarkable child who’s had despicable luck, yet against all odds he’s survived. We must do right by him!” I believe this quote from the book is a good representation of the story. August experiences some tough times, but he has people along the way who love and support him. 

I did not love nor hate this book. My feelings fall somewhere in the middle. There were parts that made me laugh out loud. There were parts that broke my heart. While I didn't love every single page, the story did evoke an emotional response as I read, because of this I think there will be a large audience who will love this book. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Harper Collins, and Aaron Jackson for the ARC of The Astonishing Life of August March in exchange for my honest review.
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Thanks so much for the ARC of this book. August's life wasn't always believe-able but parts were very funny and thoughtful. Once I let myself go (willing suspension of disbelief!), I enjoyed it more. It was a quick read for me!
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"Delightful" was the first word that came to mind when I finished reading "The Astonishing Life of August March." It's improbable, but the title pretty much gives that away, and wildly entertaining. If you like larger-than-life characters, fanciful language, and tongue-in-cheek narration, this fast-paced Dickensian tall tale is for you.

Thank you, NetGalley and HarperCollins, for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Book Review: The Astonishing Life of August March
Author: Aaron Jackson
Publisher: HarpersCollins Publishers
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Review Date: February 12, 2020

From the blurb:
“In this enchanting first novel, an irrepressibly optimistic oddball orphan is thrust into the wilds of postwar New York City after an extraordinary childhood in a theater—Candide by way of John Irving, with a hint of Charles Dickens.

Abandoned as an infant by his actress mother in her theater dressing room, August March was raised by an ancient laundress. Highly intelligent, a tad feral, August is a true child of the theater –able to recite Shakespeare before he knew the alphabet.

But like all productions, August’s wondrous time inside the theater comes to a close, and he finds himself in the wilds of postwar New York City, where he quickly rises from pickpocket street urchin to star student at the stuffiest boarding school in the nation.

To survive, August must rely upon the kindness of strangers, only some of whom have his best interests at heart. As he grows up, his heart begins to yearn for love—which he may or may not finally find in Penny, a clever and gifted con artist.

Aaron Jackson has crafted a brilliant, enchanting story at once profound and delightfully entertaining. Like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The World According to Garp, and Be Frank with Me, this razor-sharp debut—a classic tale of a young innocent who finally finds his way, reminds us that everyone can find love. Even August March.”

What an adorable novel. Quintessentially American. It’s a light, easy read. Nothing as dark and pondersome as some of my recent NetGalley reads. 

Parts of the books were very funny, laugh out loud funny. August March is an unusual, original character. His character is very finely detailed. As well as a good number of other quite eccentric characters. 

The plot developed quite nicely. Unusual. Not the least bit trite or formulaic. 

I’d call the book more entertainment than heavy literature, like a satisfying dessert. 
I recommend it if you are looking for a light, yet unusual story. 5 stars for what it is. 

Thank you to HarperCollins for giving me early access to this book. Best of luck to Aaron Jackson in your career. 

This review will be posted on NetGalley, Goodreads and Amazon.

#netgalley #theastonishinglifeofaugustmarch #harpercollins #aaronjackson
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Astonishing, indeed! Not only is the life of August Marsh, born and raised in a theatre, astonishing, but this incredible novel is as well!  It is so well-written as to make the far-fetched seem quite believably real, and the characters come alive on every single page.  I laughed out loud many, many times at the clever characterization and dialogue. 

As a lover of theatre my entire life, I will be giving this as gifts to the many other theatre lovers in my life. 

Thanks to NetGalley, the author and publisher for an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Thank you Net Galley for the free ARC. Some people have all the luck and also much misfortune. August was born backstage at a theater between acts and immediately abandoned by his mother. An old seamstress cares for him and cares enough to make him her heir. He also makes the acquaintance of a famous actor who helps him get an education. Many years are wasted on drink and petty crimes, but in the end August comes full circle. Good story, fun to read.
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