Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Monday, April 12, 2010

Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show (+ worldwide giveaway)

by Frank Delaney
448 pages

*** About the Book ***

Ireland, 1932: Ben McCarthy has lived a charmed life as the only child of successful farming parents who love both each other and their son unreservedly.  But Ben's world comes crashing down around him when his father unexpectedly runs off after a traveling actress barely older than Ben.  His mother, furious and heartbroken, demands that Ben find his father and bring him back home.  Unsure of his place in the wide world and extremely naive about women, Ben reluctantly pursues his father from town to town attempting to make him come home.

This is only part of the story however, because Ireland at this time was a land in turmoil.  The country had been partitioned (the North still belonged to England while the South was now independent), the Irish Civil War had ended, and new political figures were rising.  Each party wanted to steer the country down a path that directly opposed the other party.  Politics permeated every layer of society and every town and city.  It is amid this chaos that Ben's search for his father becomes part of something much more sinister ...

*** Why I Read It ***

I've been wanting to read something by Frank Delaney for quite a while.  I have his book IRELAND on my shelf waiting for me.  When I received a pitch for this book from a publicist it was the setting that convinced me to give it a shot; Ireland in the 1930s is when/where my Gram grew up. I was hoping to get a better idea of what life was like for her by understanding the times she lived in.

*** My Thoughts ***

If I were telling you the story of my life I'd start with my birth, but then I'd have to go back and explain a bit about my parents.  I'd continue on into my childhood but then I'd have to detour to discuss my extended family.  My college experience would necessarily have to include a bit about what was going on in world politics.  My life story, linear though it may have been in reality, cannot truly be told without pulling in details from a variety of other places.  THAT is what this book is like ... and I loved that about it.

Ben tells the reader up front that he is fond of digressions and plans to include lots of them in his tale.  I found them to be fascinating, but they did slow the story down a bit.  At one point I realized that I was more than halfway through the book but I didn't feel like I knew what the heart of the story was supposed to be about.  It didn't bother me in the least because I was enjoying the journey, but those who are looking for a quick pace might be disappointed.

There was one character in the book, James Clare, whose words will stay with me for a long time.  Whatever was going on, he always turned events into a mythological story.  If there was a girl who had a beautiful mother and cruel father, he referred to the girl as The Princess and her parents as The Beautiful Queen and The Evil King.  When Ben set out to find his father, James called it a Quest.  I loved the way he viewed the world and I will definitely try to be more imaginative in my own views from here on out.

This book has a bit of everything: adventure, love, rivalry, politics, treachery, drama, travel, history, and on and on and on.  It was my first book by Frank Delaney but it definitely won't be my last. 

*** A Bit More Personal ***

While reading a few specific parts of this book, my Gram's stories came vividly to mind ...

At one point in the book, Ben witnesses a cottage on fire.  The mother is outside with her children huddled around her while the local men carry as much furniture out as they can before the entire place is engulfed in flames.  This actually happened to my Gram's family.  It was just after Christmas and a fire started in the chimney in the farmhouse they were renting.  A man going by on a bicycle banged on their door to wake them up when he saw the thatch roof on fire.  Gram's mother, Annie, got all four children outside safely before the entire house started blazing.  Gram's father, Jimmy, ran back inside to retrieve the dolls he'd bought his three daughters for Christmas.  The family was very poor and he had saved and saved to get these gifts.  He ended up burning his hands very badly.  The house was a complete loss, as were the dolls. The local doctor put some sort of cream on Jimmy's hands and wrapped them tightly, giving strict instructions to "Leave them alone!"  When he was able to unwrap them, everyone was amazed to see that there were absolutely no scars.

At another point in the book Ben discusses the violence permeating the countryside.  Gram was born in 1924 and lived in Ireland until the late 1930s, when she moved to England.  To this day she remembers Ireland as a dangerous place, one that she never wanted to return to ... and she never did.

*** Your Thoughts ***

Is this book on your radar?  Have you read other books by Frank Delaney? Do you seek out books set in specific times or places to better connect with something in your own family history?  Which times and places?

*** The Author ***

If you want to connect with the author, there are lots of places to find him ...

*** Worldwide Giveaway ***

I have a copy of this book to give away to one lucky reader anywhere in the world, thanks to the publicist.  Here's how to enter:
  • Leave a comment telling me why you want to read this book - Are you a fan of the author?  Does the setting appeal to you?  Is it the plot that caught your attention?
  • Make sure your email address is available through your profile or blog, or leave it in your comment.
  • I'll announce the winner on Sunday, April 18.  
  • The winner must respond to my email within 48 hours or I'll choose a new winner.


Julie P. said...

I love your review and to be honest, that's why I want to read this book. I thought you did a great job of showing all of the things that the book has to offer.

Linda said...

I am mainly drawn to this book because of its setting. Since reading Leon Uris' Trinity years ago, I've been fascinated by books set in Ireland. Enjoyed your wonderful review. Thanks for the giveaway.

Michelle said...

I have had this book on my radar for a few months now, and I so want to read it! I love that it's set in Ireland, and the plot sounds interesting. Also, the cover was originally what drew me to the book.

Great review!

Trisha said...

I would love to read this book, primarily because I adore the setting. Ireland has fascinated me for quite some time. In college I took courses on Irish Literature, read books set in Ireland, and even dated an Irish guy (spoke with an accent and everything :) ). I also love anything to do with circuses/freak shows/etc. ever since reading Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. My email is eclectic.eccentric[at]

bermudaonion said...

I'm listening to the audio version of this book right now and I'm really enjoying it. The book is wonderful and the author has an amazing voice. No need to enter me.

Teresa said...

I've seen this one on several blogs and find the story interesting.

teresasreadingcorner at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

Love to read this book because I am interested in the turmoil that Ireland has been in and I like your review.

Kristi said...

I just finished The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey, which was set in Northern Ireland just before Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show it seems. I'd love to read another book about Ireland soon and loved your review and personal stories.

Ryan G said...

I'm enchanted by your review and while I'm not familiar with the author I would love to read this one. Thank you for the review and the giveaway, which I would love to enter.

Diane said...

This book does sound terrific. Your review is what makes me want to read it and I like this author as well; thanks so much

bibliophilebythesea AT gmail DOT com

Serena said...

no need to enter me, but I wanted to drop by and say I enjoyed this book a great deal!

Tribute Books said...

your review makes me want to read the book,thanks!

Dreamybee said...

This sounds great-I love your explanation of how the story meanders from the main plot line. That makes perfect sense, and that's something I think I would enjoy too.

Your gram's story brought a tear to my eye! How wonderful and sad all at the same time that her father tried to go back in to save their toys!

That's too bad that Ireland has remained a dangerous place for her. My mother-in-law lived in HI during the late '40s/early 50s, and she hated it here. When we decided to move here she let us know immediately that we shouldn't expect to see here out here. After my father-in-law died, she finally changed her mind and decided to come back and really enjoyed it. She couldn't believe how different it was from when she was here in the immediate post-war years as a military wife with 3 young children, when there were curfews and escorts and certain places you could and could not go.

AllyinWA said...

This book has been on my radar for awhile now. I love the era and the setting for the book I think that is what is most drawing me to it.

rubymoonstone at gmail dot com

Amy @ Passages to the Past said...

Oh Heather, your story was so moving. What chance that the person riding the bike happened upon the house at the right time and was able to warn them. My goodness! And then when he burned his hands saving the got me teared up!

Okay...gettin' myself together here...

I have had my eye on this book since spotting it on Amazon months ago and now that the reviews are coming in I really want it! I've not read Delaney yet, though I have Ireland on my shelf. As for reading books to help me connect with my family, that would be a usually not. Mostly because I prefer European history to American. BUT, recently I've really become interested in figuring out my family tree, so maybe that will lead to more American HF and NF.

Please include me in your giveaway. I would really love to read this book! Family dramas always intrigue me and I would like a chance to read something from this time period in Ireland, which isn't a place I get to read of often.

Thank you for the giveaway!

passages to the past (at) gmail dot) com


Booksnyc said...

No need to enter me - I read the book last month and loved it! It was the first Delaney novel for me but won't be my last!

Shelley said...

I was so hoping to find a giveaway of this book! I have read Delaney's Ireland and loved it. Thanks for the chance to win!

saz AT chainreader DOT com

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