I was browsing the shelves of my library the other day, and I randomly picked up The Astonishing Life of August March by Aaron Jackson. I had never heard of it before, but I liked the cover, so I thought I'd give it a go. Friends, let me tell you, it was the best decision I've made in a while.
|Pub Date: 4-7-20|
Adult - Historical Fiction
August March came into this world under the most absurd of circumstances. His actress mother gave birth to him in between acts of a play and promptly left him in a basket in her dressing room before heading off to Hollywood. Found amongst the dirty clothes, he was taken in by the theater's aging laundress, Miss Butler, who would tend to him in between her duties but would leave him at the end of every workday to fend for himself. Along with Miss Butler, August found companionship in Sir Reginald Percyfoot, an actor who took August under his wing and taught him everything he knew (which wasn't much), but who also did so when it was convenient for him. Living in a theater proved to have a profound effect on August. Hidden in nooks and crannies, he was able to recite Shakespeare before the alphabet, his only friends being the rodents he shared a small cramped room with, but August soon wanted more.
When his beloved theater/home is demolished, August is forced to roam the streets of a post-war New York City, pick-pocketing whatever he could to survive. The next few years of August's life are a blur of stealing, booze, and women until finally Sir Percyfoot finds him and sends him to a posh boarding school to try and make him fit for the life he deserves. As August grows into a man, he starts to long for all the things he never had: a family, a home, someone to love. Then he crosses paths with a beautiful conwoman named Penny, and things may finally be looking up for August March. But is what they have real or the ultimate dupe?
I didn't know much about this going in, and I think that made me enjoy it even more. It's so surprisingly charming and slightly bizarre. You follow August through his life from a feral child living in a theater to a pretentious boarding school brat to an adult conman/thief, and while most of the time he's a snob with a high opinion of himself, you still can't help but love him. He's ridiculous in the best way. Aside from August, the rest of the cast of characters was enjoyable and also slightly over the top. I liked him and Penny together and how their lives had been entwined from a very early age. This is all about a young man trying to make the most of a bad hand he was dealt, and it's done so in a highly entertaining way. It's witty and funny and sad at times, but overall an amusing tale.