Love, Let Me Not Hunger, Paul Gallico

“I’ll let you out of your contracts if you want, so you can get jobs with other circuses, but I’m telling you they’ll all go bust if this keeps up – just like the cinemas. But you know where they ain’t got the telly yet? Spain! And you know how I know? Because I been there!!”He stopped to let the magnitude of this revelation sink in. While they had been loafing the winter away, he, Sam Marvel, had been on the job and had gone ferreting out the situation.

“That’s right,” he continued, “Spain. There’s telly in some of the big cities, but there’s none out in the country. Why, there are some places there that ain’t even got telephones! There ain’t been a British circus on the Continent in the last forty-three years. Well, we’re gonna show ’em. We’re going where there ain’t any bloody tellyvision!”

I liked Jennie (a lot actually), and I like circuses, so I picked up this book at the library last time I was there and I thought it was going to make me happy the way Jennie (it’s called The Abandoned here) always does. I guess I forgot that Paul Gallico, apart from his Mrs. ‘Arris books and sometimes not even then, is not a happy writer. His books are full of sad people with matter-of-fact and depressing approaches to sex, who live hard, sad lives and then die miserably at Dunkirk.

You know what was a circus story that I liked a lot? Mirrormask. And also, also Circus Shoes. Those were such nice, pleasant, friendly, un-soul-destroying circus books. On the other hand, Love Let Me Not Hunger made me feel mighty depressed, and if Water for Elephants had been a better book I imagine it would have made me depressed too since that circus is also depressing (P.S. If Sara Gruen was not hugely influenced by Love Let Me Not Hunger it would surprise me). It is way too sad to read these stories about circuses that can’t sustain themselves and the owners are cheapskates and the animals starve.

Basically Love Let Me Not Hunger is a book about a little circus that goes to Spain, and while they’re in Spain there is a humongous fire (other things I don’t like: massive circus fires in fiction), and there are insurance issues, and anyway what happens is that most of the circus leaves the country to go find other jobs while they’re waiting for the insurance money to come in, and the animals and five of the circus people are left behind. One of them is a nice sweet man called Mr. Albert who looks after the animals; one is an asshole American horse guy; one is a dwarf with dogs (hi, Sara Gruen!) who murders a horse later to give the meat to his dogs (ew); one is a horny British horse guy called Toby; and one is a sweet angelic girl called Rose who is madly in love with Toby and really likes the animals. Toby and Rose have matter-of-fact depressing sex and the animals starve for like, God, such a large portion of the book, and she goes and prostitutes herself to pay for food for the animals and then Toby finds out and throws her out and then Mr. Albert sells himself to this big creepy rich lady in exchange for her paying for the animals’ food and oh my God is it ever depressing.

Yeah, but don’t worry, because eventually Toby falls very in love with Rose too and then there is a touching scene in which he proves that he really cares about her by letting her have an orgasm too, that lucky duck. Then they run away together but Mr. Albert has to stay with the creepy rich lady forever because he promised. Yeesh.

3 thoughts on “Love, Let Me Not Hunger, Paul Gallico

  1. You evidently have never read “The Zoo Gang”, “Scruffy” or “Matilda” just to mention a few. The thing I remember most about Paul Gallico’s books is laughing until my sides almost split. The guy was magical. The Mrs. ‘Arris series was also hilarious.

    When I was first introduced to his books I was a military wife in a bad marriage living overseas and despartely homesick. I read to stave off the homesickness as well as for entertainment. For me, Gallico’s books were a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean. I was transported to another place, a place of humor and kindness, and I didn’t want it to end.

    I hope you’ll read these books, that is if you can find them. They are well worth the read. And have a box of tissues ready – you’ll laugh till you cry. They’re right up there with “The General Danced At Dawn” and James Herriot’s books – “All Creatures Great and Small”, etc. Great reads all ! ! !


  2. Another author you would probably like is Nevil Shute. On the Beach is his apocalyptic novel about nuclear disaster, but he’s written so many absolutely wonderful books about wonderful people: A Town Like Alice, Trustee from the Toolroom, Pied Piper. You’d really like him.

  3. This review is hilarious, Jenny! I was thinking of reading this (and, to be honest, I still might) because I like Paul Gallico when he’s being dark – Love of Seven Dolls was so brilliant – and I didn’t much enjoy Jennie, because it was all a bit sickly sweet for me. He does seem to be quite versatile… Coronation and Mrs. Harris are delights, but I have a soft spot for the dark side, clearly…

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