Thursday, August 6, 2015
Set in the rapidly changing world of 1920s America, this is a story of three people from very different backgrounds: Henry “Schuler” Jefferson, son of German immigrants from Midwestern farm country; Cora Rose Haviland, a young woman of privilege whose family has lost their fortune; and Charles “Gil” Gilchrist, an emotionally damaged WWI veteran pilot. Set adrift by life-altering circumstances, they find themselves bound together by need and torn apart by blind obsessions and conflicting goals. Each one holds a secret that, if exposed, would destroy their friendship. But their journey of adventure and self-discovery has a price—and one of them won’t be able to survive it.
As they crisscross the heartland, exploring the rapidly expanding role of aviation from barnstorming to bootlegging, from a flying circus to the dangerous sport of air racing, the three companions form a makeshift family. It’s a one-of-a-kind family, with members as adventurous as they are vulnerable, and as fascinating as they are flawed. But whatever adventure—worldly or private—they find themselves on, they’re guaranteed to be a family you won’t forget. -- Gallery
I really enjoyed Susan Crandall's novel WHISTLING PAST THE GRAVEYARD -- you can read my review here. When I heard that she had a new novel out called THE FLYING CIRCUS, I jumped at the chance to read it. While I liked this novel, it didn't quite live up to my expectations... and I really wanted to love it. For me, it was just ok -- not especially good or bad.
THE FLYING CIRCUS is an adventure story about three very different individuals who join forces to fly airplanes during the 1920s. There is Henry, the son of German immigrants who is running from a questionable past; Gil, a psychologically damaged WWI fighter pilot; and Cora, a young woman from a once rich family who has since lost their wealth. The seemingly have nothing in common -- except for secrets from their pasts.
The threesome (along with a special pup) form the Mercury's Daredevils, a traveling barnstorming act. As they travel around the midwest, they have many exciting adventures and become a family of sorts. One day, they see the famous Hoffman's Flying Circus and they join their group... albeit reluctantly from one or two of them!
Together, these three travel across the country and the secrets of their pasts are eventually revealed. Not only do they get to know each other, but they also better understand themselves as a result of their friendships.
I can't put my finger on exactly why I didn't love THE FLYING CIRCUS. There was nothing negative that really stood out to me, but on the same account, there was nothing that really excited me. The characters were interesting, especially given their secrets; however, I never really felt an affinity with any of them. (I know that shouldn't matter, but in a book like this, it kind of does.) In addition, I don't think I was as interested in barnstorming and planes quite as much as I needed to be to appreciate those parts of the story.
Maybe I'm just not the right audience for this story because I can certainly see the appeal for many readers. The characters are their dilemmas are definitely intriguing and the book does touch upon many relevant issues -- both in the 1920s and even today. In addition, the relationships between the three are pretty darn interesting, especially the love triangle aspect. I also have to mention that the dog in the story is just too adorable!
Because the characters are all rather complex, THE FLYING CIRCUS could make an interesting book club selection. There is a reading guide available with twelve questions along with some ideas for enhancing your book club experience. I have to admit that as I read the reading guide, I did have a greater appreciation of the what the author was trying to do with this story. Some of the themes you might want to explore include past mistakes, the effects of war, guilt, forgiveness, family, a sense of belonging, risk, women's rights, and love. In addition, you could certainly discuss the symbolism of flying and what it meant to each of the three characters.
Overall, THE FLYING CIRCUS was a good, but not great, read for me. I do recommend this book to fans of the author as well as individuals interested in the early days of flying.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.