Thanks to Evelyn for sending me this book to review.
I found the story to be refreshingly different. Set amid the politics of Ireland in the early twentieth century, the plot revolves around Ben McCarthy and his quest to bring his errant father back home to the family farm. This character, Ben, is imbued with warmth, humour and strength – much more strength than that shown by either of his parents. Other characters, King Kelly and his daughter and granddaughter, seem larger than life and I suppose, a book reminiscent of some of the world’s best-loved fables, are meant to be. I’d always thought people like that were a bit scary and this is confirmed by the slightly sinister feel of these people. I’ve known people like King Kelly – I’m related to one – so that character hits close to home.
This book is filled with contrasts: Ben, though just eighteen is loyal, persistent, steadfast and strong; his father, Harry is flighty, weak, unfaithful and easily swayed. His mother too is an eerie foil for the beautiful Venetia Kelly. Where one woman behaves ‘above it all’, the other lives in a world closer to earth.
The history and politics of Ireland also play a role in this novel. While the politicians, local and national, are battling it out for power, a ventriloquist’s dummy is giving them a run for their money. Some of the dialogue from this dummy is not so dumb and the author’s clever use of this character adds to the quirkiness of the plot.
I enjoyed this book for many reasons but probably the most was that it was set in Ireland where my grandparents were born. I can still remember my grandmother calming my baby girl by gently uttering the word ‘whisht’ and I was delighted to see that word actually in print (page 77) in this novel. The characters were wonderfully oddball and the story kept me turning the pages. And for all that Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show looks like a large-ish book (at over 400 pages) it was a pretty quick read with most chapters being relatively short.
You can find all sorts of information on Frank Delaney's upcoming author tour on his Facebook fan page here.