ldquo;She sprang from the womb and waved to the crowd. Then smiled and took a bow.rdquo; And so we first meet Venetia Kelly, the beguiling actress at the center of this new, spellbinding, and epic novel by Frank Delaney, the bestselling author of IrelandandShannon. January 1932: While Ireland roils in the run-up to the most important national election in the Republicrsquo;s short history, 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, Shakespearean recitations, juggling, tumbling, and other entertainments, Benrsquo;s father, mesmerized by Venetia Kelly, the troupersquo;s magnetic headliner, makes a fateful decision: to abandon his family and set off on the road with Miss Kelly and her caravan. Benrsquo;s mother, shattered by the desertion, exhorts, ldquo;Find him and bring him back,rdquo; thereby sending the boy on a Homeric voyage into manhood, a quest that traverses the churning currents of Irelandrsquo;s fractious society and splinters the MacCarthy family.
A digressive story set in 1930s Ireland, Delaney's latest (after Shannon) chronicles the travels and travails of 18-year-old Ben as he is dispatched by his mother to track down his wayward father, who left the family to pursue a mysterious actress. Ben enters into the search with trepidation, but he perseveres, driven by his love for his father and his wish to restore his parents' heretofore loving marriage. Following Venetia's show from town to town, Ben gets an education-about his father as a person in his own right, about Irish politics and society, about love and evil, and, inevitably, about himself. Threaded throughout are digressions into Irish history and politics as well as explorations of Irish folklore. This hybrid quest saga, bildungsroman, and grassroots view of Ireland in its post-civil war era is immersive and enjoyable, and it showcases Delaney's talent for inventive metaphor, which he manipulates with an expert hand. (Mar.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
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February 22, 2010
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