Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show
Hello FTC, I’m so glad you stopped by. I received this book from the author, because I’m participating in a TLC tour.
Let’s start with the bad, because it’s so minor, it really isn’t even a bad. The only thing I didn’t like about this novel is the title (okay, and the cover). In fact, I almost didn’t accept Lisa’s invitation to participate in this tour because of the title and the cover. Because while I love to read about Ireland, I’m not real enamored of show bizzy stories. And by show bizzy I mean anything pertaining to acting, movies, theater, Hollywood or tv. So I’ll confess to being a little apprehensive about this book.
Lucky for me, this book isn’t show bizzy at all, and it’s a marvelous story. Well, there is the traveling show, and some dramatic characters, but that just serves to set the stage. The traveling show doesn’t have a huge presence (although it does have a huge impact), and the show’s content is often more literary and political. So I never felt like I was reading about something that usually bores me to tears.
Our narrator also sets the stage quite early in the novel:
“I ask your forgiveness in advance. We Irish do this digression stunt. We’re so damn pleased with our ability to talk hind legs off donkeys, that we assume people like to listen.” -p. 11
Ben MacCarthy’s (Ben being our narrator) father becomes obsessed with the actress Venetia Kelly. As a result, Ben becomes caught up in the lives of the Kelly family. His father runs away from his family and farm to take up with the Kelly’s traveling show, and Ben’s mother orders him to “Stay near him. Follow wherever he goes. And don’t come home without him.” That’s easier said then done, since Ben’s father seems to have developed some elusive qualities. And as Ben chases after his father, he also becomes entranced by both Venetia and her beautiful mother Sarah.
Yet there’s something more going on, as Ben slowly discovers. The story is set in the 1930s, a turbulent time for Irish politics, and the MacCarthy’s are about to be drawn unawares into it all. Years later, after all of the drama and politics and machinations have played out, Ben searches out many of the players and tries to piece together the Kelly family history. The novel ends up telling the story of both Ben’s family and Venetia’s, and everything that transpires as a result of the folly of Ben’s father.
And yes, there are many digressions. Ben tells the story in mostly a linear fashion, but he also interjects some observances from the present, so while you know something is going to happen you’re never quite sure what. I ended up being surprised at how it all played out, and the true nature of many of the characters. Of course, this means it’s a bit difficult to give a true synopsis of the story without ruining it all.
A final note about the characters…they are so vividly drawn. I could picture Ben and his parents having breakfast, and Venetia on stage with Blarney, and even King Kelly himself sweet talking his way across America. The characters definitely made the book for me, although I did like the story, as well, because of the unexpected surprises along the way. I’m not sure how I’ve managed to overlook Frank Delaney’s books (sorry Mr. Delaney) in the past, but I’m now a fan.
Many thanks to Mr. Delaney and TLC Book tours for introducing me to a new (to me) author and a wonderful book. You can check out TLC Book Tours for more info and the rest of the tour stops.