Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show by Frank Delaney

January 1932: While Ireland roils in the run-up to the most important national election in the Republic’s short history, Ben MacCarthy and his father watch a vagabond variety revue making a stop in the Irish countryside. After a two-hour kaleidoscope of low comedy, Shakespearean recitations, juggling, tumbling, and other entertainments, Ben’s father, mesmerized by Venetia Kelly, the troupe’s magnetic headliner, makes a fateful decision: to abandon his family and set off on the road with Miss Kelly and her caravan. Ben’s mother, shattered by the desertion, exhorts, “Find him and bring him back,” thereby sending the boy on a Homeric voyage into manhood, a quest that traverses the churning currents of Ireland’s fractious society and splinters the MacCarthy family. [via GoodReads]

Where to start on this one?! Well, I'll start with I loved this story.

Frank Delaney is a master storyteller. Ben McCarthy, narrator/hero extraordinaire, tells us a story of his youth in a very intimate setting - almost making you feel as if you are sitting down with him listening while he reminisces. Set in mostly 1930's Ireland, you learn how his life forever-changed the day his father abandoned their family to join Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show.

At first it took me a little bit to get into the story only because it starts off with a lot of background information on both Ben and Venetia. So there are two storylines - Venetia's bohemian upbringing and then Ben who's always been protected and pampered by his doting partents - that is, until the day his father up and leaves and his mother begs him to chase down his father and bring him back home. Through Ben's journey with the Traveling Show you get a glimpse of the tumultuous political situation Ireland was in during the 1930's. I think Mr. Delaney was superb in mixing fiction with non-fiction. You really had a grip on the political atmosphere of the 30’s and what a role it played on every day lives.

Now, keeping in mind that there is more than one story line at the beginning of the book, once these story lines come together and everything starts to fit together - it all weaved into this fantastic coming-of-age story, with an unexpected romance, mysteries to be solved and a journey through Ireland that introduces you to many a lovely character (each with their own story to tell).

Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show is an all-around perfect novel. There were times where I laughed and others where I cried and even others that I felt awed by it - all in all a very worthwhile read.


Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Laughed and cried? Awesome.

Ryan G said...

My desire to read this one gets stronger and stronger with every review I read. Thanks!

Booksnyc said...

I loved this book - it was my first by this author but definitely won't be my last! glad to see you liked it too!

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