19 June 2012

Book Review: The Trapeze Artist by Will Davis

Title: The Trapeze Artist
Author: Will Davis
Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus
Format: Paperback
309 pages
Genre: Fiction
Source: Publisher

The Trapeze Artist is a powerful coming-of-age story about a gay man who is living a life of quiet desperation. He is forty years old, with no social life and working at a job he pretends to like but he feels trapped and depressed. One day, feeling overwhelmed by everything, he decides to follow a travelling circus.

He is drawn to the circus with the eccentric members who seem like a family to him and he's instantly smitten with Vlad the aerialist. They embark on an intense relationship and he is allowed to stay.

The busy circus life goes on around him while he willingly accepts demands to do menial work. He's simply happy to be included in their bizarre world where he is able to forget his own troubled life. He's also thrilled to begin learning the basics of the trapeze.

When he returns home four months later, he is obsessed with becoming a trapeze artist and transforming his life but does he succeed?

The Trapeze Artist is an atmospheric novel that explores themes about homosexuality, bullying, friendship, jealousy, love, loyalty, grief, loneliness, guilt, obsession, and identity.

The hard, gritty lifestyle of the circus world with its outlandish characters is brought to life vividly and the attention to detail about learning the trapeze is particularly impressive (the author has trained as an aerialist).

The name of the protagonist is never provided and the story switches back and forth in time alternating between his teenage years, his time with the circus, and his life after the circus until his whole story is revealed. The reader is then finally able to understand why he had a nervous breakdown and why he behaves the way he does. And why mastering the trapeze is the way he hopes to escape from his life and finally feel free.

The Trapeze Artist is a poignant, slow-paced story about the trials and tribulations of growing up gay. It's about the consequences of trying to live up to expectations of others instead of finding one's own identity. It's a haunting, stylish novel with a strong emotional punch. The reader is swept along with the protagonist on his difficult journey through life which leads to a dramatic conclusion.

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