Saturday, July 27

Book Review: Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show

Title: Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show

Author: Frank Delaney

Pages: 436

Summary: January 1932: 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, juggling, tumbling, and other entertainments, Ben's father, mesmerized by Venetia Kelly, the troupe's magnetic headline, 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 to manhood.

Interweaving a host of unforgettable creations - "King" Kelly Venetia's violent, Mephistophelean grandfather, Sarah Kelly, Venetia's mysterious, amoral mother; and even truth-telling ventriloquist's dummy named Blarney - Frank Delaney unfurls a splendid narrative that spans half the world and a tumultuous decade.

My Rating: 7/10

What I liked/disliked about the book: I found that this book didn't live up to what I've read previously by the author. I wasn't pulled in like his previous novels have done for me and I found that magic just wasn't there either. It was still a good read, but it didn't have the same pull as I expected.

I did enjoy the narrative and writing style of the book, it wasn't as lyrical as I've read in the past, but it was one of my favourite parts of the book. I love how the author tells the story. I also really enjoyed the historical and political look at Ireland during the time period. I think the author executed that aspect o the book brilliantly, as he managed to tie it into the book to complement it, and not let it take over the story. Unfortunately, other aspects of the plot never quite kept my interest. While I found parts about the traveling show to be amusing at times, I found it just didn't come together as well as I would have liked. There were hints at some deep secrets, but they too weren't fleshed out. The book worked for me as a historical fiction, but there was a lot more to the book - and those parts just didn't come together for me.

The characters were a major downfall for me. I didn't exactly warm up to them, and I found that their development was missing from the book. They seemed to stay still throughout most of the story, and at times, when there was some development, it felt choppy - which at times I also felt that with part of the plot. It felt choppy, things didn't always connect together well, and I felt that it just didn't come together completely in the end.

Overall, I enjoyed the, it didn't have that same appeal to it as previous novels I've read by the author.

Would I recommend it to read: I would, I don't think it's his best book, but it was a great historical/political fiction, and there's a lot to take from it in the end.

What to read next: The Matchmaker of Kenmare and The Last Storyteller. Ireland and Tipperary are also well worth reading.

Challenges: 100 Books Challenge, Ireland Reading Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge


  1. I think the last two books in the trilogy are much better, especially The Matchmaker of Kenmare, though I really did enjoy this one. It was my introduction to Frank Delaney!

  2. My first experience with the author was Ireland, which caused me to want to read pretty much everything by him. This one just didn't work, but it is good to hear the last two books where much better, some good books to look forward too.