Book Review: Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show by Frank Delaney

Title: Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show
Author: Frank Delaney
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from Library Thing
First line: She sprang from the womb and waved to the crowd.

Venetia Kelly may be the title character of Frank Delaney’s latest novel of historical Ireland, but the book is very much the story of Ben McCarthy, a coming-of-age story about a young man sent on a near impossible quest by his mother. Ben’s father, a farmer, has become enthralled by an actress in a traveling theater troupe, and has abandoned his family. His mother sends 18-year-old Ben to bring his father home – and Ben finds himself drawn into Venetia’s world just as deeply as his father.

When Venetia’s grandfather, King Kelly, comes to rent the cottage on Ben’s family’s property, Ben quickly comes to suspect that there is much more afoot than his father simply having a fling. Ben’s quest is played out against the backdrop of Irish politics, always a tangled and intriguing topic. Ben tells the story in the first person, with many digressions (his own word) from the storyline, digressions filled with politics, folklore, and faerie stories.

Delaney has the gift of storytelling, as well as the gift of writing – not necessarily the same thing. Not only can he spin a wonderful yarn, but he puts words together in a beautiful way. I loved the character of Ben, and Delaney does a fantastic job of showing how Ben matures, grows, and changes over the course of searching for his father and meeting Venetia. As he tells his story, he also tells us the things he has learned about people and life – these “digressions” are full of wisdom and insight. Ben’s entire life story is changed because of his father’s decision to leave his family, and the changes resonate down through the years. Venetia’s beauty and charm were enough to draw everyone around her into her thrall, and even many years later, as Ben tells us his story, he is still under her spell.

This novel is fine historical fiction, especially for anyone as fascinated by Irish history and storytelling as I am. Highly recommended.

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19 Responses to Book Review: Venetia Kelly’s Traveling Show by Frank Delaney

  1. What a wonderful review, Carrie! You captured well the essence of the book. I am glad you enjoyed it as much as I did.
    .-= Literary Feline´s last blog ..Sunday Salon- The Vietnam War My Reading- Part 1 =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Wendy – if you haven’t already, you should try his first novel Ireland – it is even more amazing.

  2. I listened to this and just adored it. Not only can Frank Delaney write a great story, he can read it too – he has a fantastic voice.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – I wish my library had any of his books on audio – I’d love to hear him read!

  3. Kim
    Twitter: BookstoreK
    says:

    I love Irish historical fiction. Curious, is the book from a Catholic or Protestant point of view?
    .-= Kim´s last blog ..A Treat for the Weekend =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kim – unlike most historical fiction set in Ireland, this one didn’t really deal with religion. I think the family was Catholic, but it wasn’t really a part of the plot.

  4. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    As you probably remember, I had wanted to listen to this with the kids on audio when we were wandering around out West, but our car didn’t have a jack for my iPod. It still sits unlistened to, but I hope to get to it soon. Kathy at BermudaOnion loved it on audio.
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Sunday Salon- Back Home Again in Indiana =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sandy – I know – I really need to get one of his on audio!

  5. I loved this one too! This story was weaved together so well – I will definitely read more by Frank Delaney!
    .-= Colleen (Books in the City)´s last blog ..Readalong of The Space Between Us by Thrity Urmigar =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Colleen – I loved his first novel, Ireland, and I have both Shannon and Tipperary on my to-read shelves.

  6. Serena
    Twitter: SavvyVerseWit
    says:

    I really loved this book and the storytelling was fantastic!
    .-= Serena´s last blog ..Mailbox Monday 89 =-.

  7. Kathleen says:

    I’ve been reading a lot about this one in the blogosphere lately and the reviews are all positive. It’s on my list to read, one day.

  8. Anna says:

    I’m glad to see you enjoyed this one as much as I did!
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..Review- The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri =-.

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