Friday, June 24, 2016

The Ringmaster's Wife

Title:  The Ringmaster's Wife
Author:  Kristy Cambron
Publication Information:  Thomas Nelson. 2016. 352 pages.
ISBN:  0718041542 / 978-0718041540

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "We only see what we want to see -  in people, in love, and in life."

Favorite Quote:  "You could never fit in ... You were made to stand out."

This book is a beautiful story of two strong women and the enticing environment of the Ringling Brothers Circus.  The two women - Mable and Rose - choose different paths but share many things. They both have dreams and seek a life different from the one to which they are born. They both possess the courage to pursue that dream and to choose a different life. They both have the strength to persevere.

Mable Burton Ringling was a real person. Born in Ohio, she left her family home to pursue a future in Chicago. She worked and struggled. It was there she met John Ringling, one the brothers who created and ran the Ringling Brothers Circus. The married when she was 30. Mable never actively got involved in the running of the circus, but her gracious and gentle influence was felt throughout. Her most enduring legacy is perhaps their home in Sarasota, Florida, Cà d'Zan.

The character of Rosamund Easling is pure fiction. Born into British nobility, she leaves a pre-determined life, taking a leap into the unknown in America. Lady Rosamund Easling becomes Rose the circus performer. In her path lie love, adventure, fame, and intrigue. Some would see her succeed; some would see her fail. It is her journey that becomes the story of this book.

Mable's story starts about a quarter century before Rose's, but the two meet when Rose arrives in Sarasota, Florida, the home of the Ringlings. The book weaves back and forth, looking at the trajectory of both their lives - the differences in their paths and the similarities in their characters. Rose's story, being the fiction, is much more developed that Mable's story. Very little is known about Mable Ringling's life, particularly her childhood and how she actually met John Ringling. In the book, she appears as a role model and guide for Rose and for other members of the circus family.

These characters and their love stories are the main plot of this book. The circus setting though gets equal billing. The author paints a very visual picture of life in and around the Big Top. The picture engages all the senses in all the sites and sounds of the circus. The book transports you to the center of that Big Top. Interestingly, the book makes a point to talk about the special care the animals receive. This seems counter to what the press is saying currently about animal shows. I wonder if that is a difference of the times or if the author offers a defense of the industry. Just an interesting side note to the story.

The story itself starts off slow. The switching between characters and time periods is a little difficult to follow at the beginning. The ending of the book is seeped in melodrama - attacks, accidents, and fires - dramatic much like the action in a Big Top. In between though is a story that immerses me in the world of the circus and the lives of these two women. Memorable characters, a memorable setting, and a love story make for an engaging summer read.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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