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Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show: A Novel of Ireland Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 23, 2010

4.1 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Delaney pulls out all the stops as he tips his hat to two great and all but indistinguishable Irish traditions: the theater and politics. Readers will be enchanted as the author spins a tale so glib, so charming, and so amusing that—begorrah—you can almost imagine him slyly winking as he kisses the Blarney Stone. Set in Ireland in the politically tumultuous 1930s, this rollicking tale, chockfull of Irish wit, superstition, and sentiment, features a larger-than-life cast of suitably eccentric characters. When 18-year-old Ben McCarthy, is dispatched by his mother to fetch home his wayward father, he embarks on an odyssey so wonderfully strange, all-encompassing, and ultimately tragic that it will effectually define his entire life. After Papa McCarthy, a staid and gentlemanly soul, does something as wildly out of character as fall for a beautiful and charming young actress, Ben, too, is irresistibly drawn into the giddy orbit of Venetia Kelly and her Traveling Show. Ben’s bittersweet story plays out against a backdrop of political corruption, personal greed, and high unexpected romance. Expect high demand for this ideal book club selection. --Margaret Flanagan


“Weaving Irish vaudeville and politics of the 1930s into a mix both delightful and astonishing, Frank Delaney devises an engaging saga that will captivate listeners. … The account is magically intimate and emotionally real. Delight in Delaney's feast of hilarious, improbable details; side-story digression taken to a new art form; and memorable characters.” — AudioFile Magazine

"Set against the backdrop of the political and social turmoil of 1932 Ireland, Delaney's latest novel opens with young Ben McCarthy's father abandoning the farm to join a traveling theater troupe. Devastated, Ben's mother sends him off to bring his father home. He finds the troupe and falls in love with the same young actress who seduced his father. Venetia is a stunning young woman, the child of a famous actress and a villainous political opportunist named King Kelly. Furious that his daughter's affairs with common farm folk might tarnish his political aspirations, Kelly plots revenge against the McCarthys. In the manner of Greek tragedy, he steals their farm, has them set upon by political mobsters, destroys the troupe, and robs himself of the love of his life. VERDICT Delaney (Shannon ) is a master storyteller, and this expansive tale of politics, tragedy, and revenge is Irish storytelling at its best. Full of vibrant, well-crafted characters and satisfyingly high drama, it will appeal to fans of sweeping Irish sagas."—Library Journal

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition edition (February 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400067839
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400067831
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,612,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The book opens with the announcement of the birth of the title character Venetia Kelly, as told by the narrator, Ben McCarthy. It is clear from the first paragraph, if not from the novel's title, that Venetia Kelly will play a pivotal role in this story. It is almost as if she is ordained with mythical power even from birth. But rather than immediately dive into Venetia's story, Delaney carefully weaves a tapestry of characters which surround or are connected to Venetia in some way. At first, it was difficult to see how all the threads were going to come together - the story moved from NYC to Ireland and between members of the Kelly and McCarthy families in the first 100 pages. But those 100 pages served their purpose - I found myself completely drawn into the story at that point. I knew the characters well and was driven to read on and see how the story would unfold and how they would influence each other's stories.

The use of Ben McCarthy as the narrator is an interesting device. Ben is telling this story as a man in his 50's reflecting on events that took place when he was an 18 year old on the verge of manhood. He acknowledges that here:

As you read, please know that I am a man of mature years telling the story of himself when young, so forgive me if at times I make the young me seem and sound older than eighteen.

By having the narrator speak so directly to the reader, Delaney makes the reader feel almost as if they are listening to a story being told by a friend as he reminisces about his childhood. The many "digressions" taken by narrator enhances the sense of the story being told to you - Ben speaks to the reader in the way you would imagine any good Irish storyteller would - by taking a circuitous route with lots of color thrown in for good measure.
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Format: Hardcover
How do legends emerge out of truth, myth from fact? Ben MacCarthy in a Year of Destiny, the election of 1932 as Fascist Blueshirts menace Ireland's uneasy democratic shifts, finds his young life's love. He must also grow up fast, gain revenge, rescue his family, and learn awful lessons. Delaney tells this in a narrative that convinces by its digressions, and teaches by its hard-won insistence not on stoic rejection, but profound understanding.

"I know that, at the end of it all, I did some remarkable things, far beyond the reach of a man of my age." (50) At eighteen, Ben must quickly come to maturity, as a detective of sorts, and as a sudden husband barely off the farm as he wanders Ireland in the company of a group of dramatic players. That his father has run off, preceding him, is only the first in a series of surprises, and shocks. He plunges into the saga of the Kellys, of whose scion King early we find: "His full name, Thomas Aquinas Kelly, was a comic misnomer. The only moral inquirers this man ever made had to do with money-- the inside track, the shortcut, the influence, the bribe, the pull, the means, typically foul, of getting what he wanted. He came out of the womb a criminal." (18)

This passage typifies Delaney's style. He conveys an old man looking way back to seek answers, but he keeps the verve of a young man's hopes leavened by a maturer fellow's rueful, worldly-wiser, philosophy. The book moves in and out of digressions as Ben seeks to puzzle out what happened in '32, and along the way a reader will learn about Irish politics, storytelling, and mores.
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Format: Hardcover
Another one where my review is in the minority!

I really struggled with this one. I made it well over half way through the book. I just couldn't finish it. I think that Frank Delaney is probably a terrific storyteller, and I love a great story. His prose is certainly lyrical and definitely Irish, which is normally something I enjoy reading. But, ultimately here, I didn't care for the characters. The set up for this story took too long and there were lots of characters to keep track of and way too many politics. All of his digressions, which many people loved, I found annoying. I wanted to find out what happened next, but unfortunately the rambling, circuitous route it took to get there was just a bit too windy for me.

There are certainly many glowing reviews out there for this book, and if you've enjoyed Frank Delaney in the past, I'm sure you'll enjoy this one too. I had great expectations for this one, but unfortunately it didn't move me enough to warrant finishing it.
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Format: Hardcover
When I asked a favorite boyhood friend, with whom I had not spoken for over 50 years,what he was reading, he enthusiastically answered, "Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show". I ordered it through Amazon as a way of intuiting his current state of mind. I can happily report that I feel instantly connected to him again through our joint appreciation of Frank Delany's absorbing novel. From the first page I was intrigued by the immediateness and inventiveness of his story, filled with quirky, fascinating and beautiful characters whose lives are constructed like a house of cards with ominous foreshadowings of eventual collapse. If you liked Ivan Doig's "The Whistling Season", you'll love this book. It is even broader in its scope and more original in its style. Nearly every page reveals some insight about human nature through the unique perspectives of the individual characters who populated my mind both during and since reading it.
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