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Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show: A Novel of Ireland
 
 

Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show: A Novel of Ireland [Kindle Edition]

Frank Delaney
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Frank Delaney's The Matchmaker of Kenmare.

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 headliner, 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 into manhood.

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

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1883 KB
  • Print Length: 450 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: B00HUCABIC
  • Publisher: Random House (23 Feb 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0036S4BJE
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #295,187 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars REMARKABLE NARRATION BY THE AUTHOR 27 Mar 2010
By Gail Cooke TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
The voice. It's a most remarkable voice, magical, mesmerizing drawing one in. Through countless audiobooks never has a reader (in this case, of course, also the author) so captured me. I dislike cliches but this fellow could read a city census and there would be applause. Frank Delaney's voice is modulated, low, strong with merely a hint of the Irish. His words can tumble, spring forth to cast a spell or somberly intone. His narration is rich with understanding, and ripe with experience: I've been there, I've seen it, I know it. How can a voice convey all of this? Listen to VENETIA KELLY'S TRAVELING SHOW.

To tell us of the momentous events that changed not only his life but that of his country, Ireland, Ben McCarthy remembers. Now an older man he looks back to the winter of 1932, a time of turmoil in his home and throughout the land. He lived with his father and mother, Harry and Louise, on a small farm. Harry is stolid, hard working, a family man. Ben sometimes worries that his parents work too hard, and "dug for gold on the farm so he could buy his parents gifts." Quite obviously he is a good youth, one who only wants to do what is right. Theirs is a quiet life with entertainment sometimes being a traveling circus.

Harry goes to Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show starring Venetia, a young, beautiful woman who we are told "... sprang from the womb and waved to the crowd. Then she smiled and took a bow. " It's a shock when always reliable Harry falls passionately, head-over-heels, crazy in love with Venetia and decides to follow the circus. Louise is distraught and sends Ben off with directions to "Find him and bring him back."

Thus begins Ben's odyssey, a journey studded with intrigue, larceny, murder and other heinous acts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Well-Crafted Irish Drama 18 Feb 2012
Format:Hardcover
The story is set in 1932 Ireland, a time when tensions are high due to the upcoming elections and the endless rhetoric by those vying for power. Ben McCarthy narrates 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.

The first 100 pages take us back and forth between NYC and Ireland and between members of the Kelly and McCarthy families. Mr. Delaney carefully weaves a tapestry of characters that surround and are connected with Venetia in some way. He has a wonderful way with words and a unique style of putting history into perspective, he slowly introduces his characters and takes us on little side journeys to help us remember each ones name and personality before eventually developing the in depth part of the story, at that point the suspense kicks into high gear and you're hooked.

Ben in his innocence and naivety recounts in a rambling and colourful voice how his father while attending the ''Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show' 'delivered a shocking revelation. His father has decided to abandon the family for Venetia, the skilled ventriloquist and beautiful performer who has won his heart. Ben is sent back home by himself to deliver the devastating news to his mother. Overcome with emotion and not thinking clearly she repeatedly sends young Ben back to find his father and try to convince him he is needed at home. The young man's path will not only cross with a flamboyant theatrical family but also with the ambitious and unscrupulous politician Thomas ''King'' Kelly. Ben eventually falls under the same spell as his father, Venetia and her charms has a far greater effect on the vulnerable young man drawing him even deeper into her lair.

Mr.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Delaney captivates again! 17 Jun 2014
By poppy96
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I loved reading this book and wanted to read it again from the start as soon as I had finished so I could fully absorb Delaney's beautiful wording. The story is gripping and I felt every emotion the character's felt.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  41 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A REMARKABLE READING BY THE AUTHOR - AUDIOBOOK REVIEW 4 Mar 2010
By Gail Cooke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
The voice. It's a most remarkable voice, magical, mesmerizing drawing one in. Through countless audiobooks never has a reader (in this case, of course, also the author) so captured me. I dislike cliches but this fellow could read a city census and there would be applause. Frank Delaney's voice is modulated, low, strong with merely a hint of the Irish. His words can tumble, spring forth to cast a spell or somberly intone. His narration is rich with understanding, and ripe with experience: I've been there, I've seen it, I know it. How can a voice convey all of this? Listen to VENETIA KELLY'S TRAVELING SHOW.

To tell us of the momentous events that changed not only his life but that of his country, Ireland, Ben McCarthy remembers. Now an older man he looks back to the winter of 1932, a time of turmoil in his home and throughout the land. He lived with his father and mother, Harry and Louise, on a small farm. Harry is stolid, hard working, a family man. Ben sometimes worries that his parents work too hard, and "dug for gold on the farm so he could buy his parents gifts." Quite obviously he is a good youth, one who only wants to do what is right. Theirs is a quiet life with entertainment sometimes being a traveling circus.

Harry goes to Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show starring Venetia, a young, beautiful woman who we are told "... sprang from the womb and waved to the crowd. Then she smiled and took a bow. " It's a shock when always reliable Harry falls passionately, head-over-heels, crazy in love with Venetia and decides to follow the circus. Louise is distraught and sends Ben off with directions to "Find him and bring him back."

Thus begins Ben's odyssey, a journey studded with intrigue, larceny, murder and other heinous acts. In addition to unforgettable characters Delaney peoples his story with real people (Yeats) and, yes, a ventriloquist's dummy, Blarney, whose utterances are less than comedic. Woven throughout are references to myth. An ever astonishing author Delaney is difficult to capture - he's inventive, surprising, witty, erudite. But, why try to capture him? Simply listen and enjoy.

- Gail Cooke
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expansive novel with complex characters 19 Mar 2010
By Booksnyc - Published on Amazon.com
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. Interestingly enough, there is a link on Frank Delaney's website to lectures he has given on the tradition of Irish oral storytelling. That tradition is perpetuated in his narrator Ben McCarthy.

I truly enjoyed this expansive novel - it is rich and multi-layered and one of the few books I would choose to reread. There is so much woven into the novel - Irish political history, mythology and complex characters- that I feel it is a book that can be read on many levels and you may see different things upon reread. It has been a long time since I have been so absorbed in a novel; this is my first Delaney but most certainly will not be my last - I will definitely be going back to read his earlier novels!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The shadowing of the show 24 Feb 2010
By John L Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
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. When Ben makes his big move, the young man from the provinces going off to seek his fortune, or take back his family's small share of such, he admits his boldness and his foolhardiness in equal measure: "I was feeling the safety that's embodied in commitment, no matter how heartbreaking it may be." (268) It's a coming of age story in a time when the young Irish Republic comes of age.

There's far less about the Blueshirts themselves than I had expected, but then, they were a small movement with perhaps not much of an ideology to go on about at length anyhow, as Delaney seems to imply. The funhouse, satirical atmosphere of the traveling show fades as the novel goes on and the show gains some Shakespearean class. Cameos as the man in the leprechaun hat running for office and the ventriloquized Blarney (whose eloquence from the mouth of Venetia to me remains a mystery on one disturbing level which perhaps is as it should be, to keep its power over an audience member such as me) will reward the persevering reader.

Real-life sidles in, in a small detail such as Kalem Studios coming to make silent films in Ireland, or large one as in Eamon de Valera's uncanny hold over his admirers and detractors. Between the famous and the obscure, the nation being a small one, Ben will wander much of it as he tries to follow his own calling, and to figure out his own place in an island where feuds and memories cannot stay buried long. Don't expect an exhaustive travelogue even if Ben roams much of the Republic; it's more of what you'd hear from a man who sees his homeland but may also have been worn out by it, for in his travels he went more out of necessity than choice. Having visited myself many of the places in the Limerick-Tipperary rural stretches where most of this action occurs, this often overlooked terrain does gain its own dignified presence, but it lingers as backdrop, as a native lives with it, not a tourist, so the descriptions ring as more sparing and less rapturous in fitting tone.

The minor characters may stay so, and some of the major ones lurk long offstage after all are brought on in the first seventy pages, but like a dramatic show, the director will have reasons for bringing them off and on as the play goes on. The pace may seem rather unexpected, but as Ben himself strives to put together again what happened in 1932 at a far remove, the scattered elements begin, as best as he can reassemble them, to come together-- to a point, which is the whole novel's point. Free of cliche, and mercifully absent of many stereotypical figures that appear to infest market-town Irish vignettes even today, Delaney intersperses via folklorist James Clare a flavor of richer narratives, drawn from the elusive well at the world's end where ordinary folks enter extraordinary derring-do.

My dog-eared copy of his "Legends of the Celts" attests to Delaney's skill at enriching a modern account with mythic undertones without being too obvious or too oblique, and when reading this novel, I was reminded of how events over the years warp and fade. Ben warns early on: "Of the principal characters in this drama, I alone remain alive." He hopes to be proven wrong, however, and as he promises, the rambling and complicated story that he tells, no matter its twists and turns, winds up a rather compact comeuppance tale at its darker heart.

Late in its unfolding, we learn of its titular character her acting ability shines as she can hold back to draw the audience into her performance. Holding back, we come to appreciate as this ambitious novel reaches its climax, pulls the reader into Delaney's evocation of how family greed and young dreams clash and tear apart those caught in this year when "the tension in the country at that time" resembled "those photographs at night, when the camera's flash turns the neon into streaks and colored streamers. No wonder we all went a little mad." (105)
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Could not finish it, but Delaney fans will probably enjoy it. 20 April 2010
By Holly - Published on Amazon.com
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The delight of discovering a literary gem 1 July 2011
By Donnelly Fenn - Published on Amazon.com
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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