Author: Martha Conway
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Usually when I rate a book 5 stars I immediately know why. Otherwise I default to 4 stars as I usually have a critique or two. The Floating Theatre is a bit different in that I really, really enjoyed it; but wasn't immediately convinced it was a 5 star book. But upon a couple hours of contemplation I've realized I cannot come up with any major flaws. Therefore 5 stars it is!
This is an enchanting and enjoyable book. Now I know you're thinking... um... Mel isn't it about slavery? Well yes, but it's also about theatre, a young woman finding her voice, an unlikely romance, and a cast of characters that you could write entire books about.
Ironically the slavery part is a small portion of the book. Now it's the obvious climax of the book and plays a major part; but the first 65% of the book isn't really about slavery. It is noticed by our lead gal, May, that slavery is only on one side of the river. She continually expresses to herself how she's made uncomfortable by it as she tells her story. On a few occasions May is horrified by what she sees but up until the point in which she is forced to 'choose a side' she remains a silent protester. The typical American woman in the 1800's. Keep quiet, do your own thing and keep out of trouble.
I don't want to give any plot away that isn't obvious from the blurb. So let's talk about characters instead. While the plot is excellent and moves at a good pace; creating tension and stress for the reader, it's really the characters that endeared me to The Floating Theatre. Our lead gal May tells the story, as though it's her memoir. Offering occasional moments of commentary like she 'didn't know it at the time' but would 'soon learn' phrases. Then we have her cousin, who's a good example of a waste of air. The Captain of our Floating Theatre, whose charming and you can't help but just love him. Our cast of theatre folks who are a troop all on their own. Finally there is a lady who is our catalyst.. I can't call her a villain as I think that is not quite right. However there is no doubting that she manipulates everyone around her to her will. Whether it's with sugar and promises, money, blackmail or good ole negotiation tactics. While I dislike her the most of our main cast of characters, she's actually the second most interesting person next to May. I am always intrigued by morally subject characters; especially women during a time when women didn't have near as much power as they do today.
Overall if you like stories about the 1830's before slavery was abolished, are interested in theatre in any small way, and like a good coming into her own story I think you will enjoy this book. I found it intriguing and a very unique way of looking at how the whites were affected or conflicted by slavery. However, this is not a rah-rah, underground railroad type story. It's more a story of a girl who gets accidentally caught up between the north and south sides of a river that divide a nation's opinion on slavery.
I look forward to this coming out in trade paperback so I can add it to my collection of historical fiction that I would easily recommend again, and certainly read again myself.
And I will be looking for more by Martha Conway in the future.
|Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.|