Total sucker for titles and absolute fiction. So Andrew Nicoll's 'When You're Reading This, I'm Already Dead' called out loud. Didn't know what to expect though. It sounded surreal. While I like fantasy, I'm not so keen about surrealism. (Reviews here and here.)
Written in first person narrative, it's first set in Berlin towards the end of WWII as Allied bombs fell, recounting the rather amazing life of a young Otto Witte who was a circus acrobat in Hamburg and impersonated the King of Albania. Apparently, there's a real Otto Witte in history who managed to briefly crown himself as King of Albania in 1913 before being discovered in five days.
It felt as though I was listening to a friendly elderly gentleman talk about his life. Otto Witte was convinced that he would die very soon from the bombs, and hence wanted to tell the story of his life once upon a time, before his eventual death. His story began in Budapest and from thereon branched out into many stories. Many more characters came in and out of his exciting life.
In my humble opinion, everybody ought to run away from home and join the circus at least once in their lives. It is an education. It broadens the mind. It equips a person for taking his place in the world. Of course, me taking my place in the world meant running away from the circus to become a king but, on solemn reflection and after some years of careful thought, I can tell you, if you're running off to become a king, then a circus is a great place to start. They've got everything in a circus: talented people, tools, rope, chain, clothes for every occasion and, if you wrap them all up in a big bundle, then a camel is ideal for carrying the whole lot around with you.