The Flying Circus
About This Book
From the bestselling and award-winning author of Whistling Past the Graveyard comes an adventure tale about two daredevils and a farm boy who embark on the journey of a lifetime across America’s heartland in the Roaring Twenties.
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.
I love novels set in the early 20th Century, and this cover absolutely captivated me. I also loved the book’s description and how it promised excitement, intrigue, and even hinted at a bit of romance. All in all, this looked to be exactly the type of novel I love. And for the most part, it was.
Henry was the perfect character to narrate this story, and through his haunted, inexperienced eyes, Crandall brings her 1920s barnstorming adventure to brilliant life. I love her writing, how her descriptions are both vivid and simple: I immediately saw and heard and felt everything that Henry did, from the humming of the wing wires during his first airplane ride to the fear lurking in his stomach every time he saw a lawman. Crandall also infuses her story with exceptional detail and accuracy, making subjects as complex as early aircraft engines very easy to understand. Never once did I feel the scientific detail overpowered the story. On the contrary, it was very well done and gave the book a great deal of energy and authenticity.
Henry, Gil and Cora, not to mention their adopted stray dog, Mercury, were extremely likable characters. Even though Henry was the only point-of-view character telling the story, I really felt I got to know the others, too, and could relate to all of them. Their dialogue was quite brash, filled with far more expletives than I felt were really necessary to the story, but emotionally I think modern readers will find a good deal of themselves in these lost, hurting characters who just want to belong to something and someone.
The Flying Circus was extremely engaging from the very first chapter, and held my interest right up to the three-quarter mark. At that point, unfortunately, there was a noticeable shift in tone and action, and I felt the story lapsed into melodrama from there on out. After such a great beginning, I was rather disappointed that the ending was both predictable and a bit telling (the big drama happened “off screen,” as it were), and the brief epilogue, while undoubtedly meant to be touching, actually made me snort with laughter. “Seriously? That’s it?” was my ultimate reaction when I closed the last page… and that’s never a good place to leave your reader after 368 pages.
Still, Crandall’s writing and attention to historical detail were top-notch, and I will definitely be looking for more works from this talented author. If you like riveting characters, thrilling action, and a lively historical setting, The Flying Circus is the book for you.
Available July 7, 2015 from Simon & Schuster