Tuesday, February 23, 2010
...and now, Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show, by Frank Delaney
My thanks to the Librarything Early Reviewer's Program, for selecting me to read this book. I would have bought it anyway had I not received it, because it's written by a very good author.
Frank Delaney has given readers yet another fine story, one which takes place among the tumultuous events of his native Ireland's 20th century history, and one which, after you've read it, you won't soon forget. This is, of course, one of the main themes that run constantly throughout Delaney's books. This time, the action is centered on either side (before and after) of the general elections of 1932. It's okay if you know little to nothing about Irish political history; the author gives you enough background to make the time period and events understandable. Amid this political backdrop, Delaney introduces the reader to one Ben McCarthy, a young, naive 18-year old boy who little by little comes to be a man carrying the weight of his world on his shoulders. Ben's life, and that of his family, is altered forever by the entrance of Venetia Kelly and her Traveling Show. How this happens, and how it's connected to the 1932 elections is the main thrust of the story of this novel.
The novel slowly draws you in, keeping you there until the very last page. Delaney starts out with introductions to the principal players of this novel: Ben McCarthy and his family, who live a better life than many of their neighbors & acquaintances; Sarah Kelly, actress and mother of Venetia Kelly; and King Kelly, Venetia's grandfather, who lives by the golden rule, which for him is "the man with the gold makes the rules." (257) Throughout the story, the author launches into "digressions," in which he gives you some of the history, folklore and other cultural bits about Ireland, all perfectly relevant to the story, and to which you should definitely pay attention. As other reviewers have noted, it starts out a bit slow and may feel a bit sloggy at first, but you will be handsomely rewarded if you continue and do not give up.Trust me on this one.
There are some wonderfully humorous moments in this book, which is also highly metaphorical in places, but Delaney does not hold back on the more frightening and sorrowful truths about the playing field of Irish politics and the lot of the poorer Irish people of the time.
This one I can definitely recommend. If you don't care about the politics, that's okay -- there are other stories at work here that will keep you reading, but do keep in mind that the whole is so much greater than its parts. Overall -- a very good read. Oh! The end was a bit over melodramatic for my tastes, but you may want to have a hanky handy as you're finishing the book.