Hope you’re having a great September. We are ready for more true fall weather down here. But so far it’s mostly just been rainy (which I also love!)
Tonight I’m excited to share my thoughts on Kristy Cambron’s novel The Ringmaster’s Wife. I have been anticipating this one for a while. I think when it first came out my library didn’t have a copy so it got lost in my TBR for a while. But I rediscovered it recently and loved it!
I love Kristy’s Hidden Masterpiece novels: The Butterfly and the Violin and A Sparrow in Terezin. Both are excellent stories of love and hope during WWII and in the present day. I can’t believe I reviewed those both over 2 years ago! Time flies!
- I love the way Kristy connects history and fiction in her novels. Mable Ringling was a real person and I love the depth of character Kristy gives to her.
- This book reminded me of all that I loved about The Night Circus: the obvious circus setting, the dual perspectives, and the beautiful writing and love story. I really need to reread that one!
The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron is a dazzling story of life inside the great Ringling Brother’s circus. Goodreads summarizes, “Rosamund Easling is no stranger to opulence. As the daughter of an earl, she’s grown up with every comfort money can buy. But when hard times befall the family’s Yorkshire estate in the aftermath of the Great War, Rosamund’s father sells her beloved horse, setting the stage for a series of events that would extend beyond even her wildest dreams. Though expected to marry for a title instead of love, Rosamund feels called to a different life – one of adventure outside the confines of a ladies’ parlor. She abandons all she’s known and follows in pursuit as her horse is shipped to the new owner – an American entertainer by the name of John Ringling. Once introduced to the Ringling Brothers’ circus and knowing she has much to learn, Rosamund agrees to a bareback riding apprenticeship in the shadow of the Ringlings’ winter home—Ca’D’Zan. It is at that mansion, in what would become the last days of the enigmatic Mable Ringling’s life, that Rosamund finds a deeper sense of purpose in the life she’s been given, and the awakening of faith in her heart.”
There is just something magical about a circus as the setting for a novel. I think it’s easy to enjoy books set in the circus (The Night Circus immediately comes to mind as a brilliant circus setting). The Ringling Brothers circus setting in this novel is fascinating. Rosamund rubs shoulders (literally) with elephants, horses, and giant cats. She interacts with trapeze artists, trick riders, clowns, and more. The circus travels to so many places with little time in between. From the advertising of the shows to the behind the scenes set up and take down, there are so many details to orchestrate. It’s incredible! I loved learning so much about the early 20th century circus.
I really enjoyed the dual perspective and dual time period narrations. It is one of my favorite tropes in literature. If done well (and this is definitely done well here), it’s engaging to have to piece together each of the stories and how they connect to each other. I especially enjoyed the flashbacks to Mable and John’s courtship and early marriage. It adds depth to the story to learn about Mable’s background so you appreciate even more the interactions she has with Colin and Rosamund later in her life. It was also fun to get inside the head of Rosamund, Mable, and Colin. Each of them has an important piece of the story to tell that brings the full tale to a beautiful climax.
Kristy writes beautiful, flawed characters that I can’t help but cheer for. I loved Mable so much. She is a beautiful person in every way despite challenges and disappointments. The way she changes the lives of those around her for the better is inspiring. I also loved her love of gardening and her passion for travel. I enjoyed Rose for her passion and determination. I was surprised when she decided to leave everything to join the circus (it sounds sort of cliche as I type it!) but the journey she goes on is inspiring as well. I loved the details about her riding and appreciated that she made mistakes that she had to fix along the way. I absolutely loved Colin for his strength and his ability to change. His backstory is potentially my favorite. One of my favorite scenes is Rosamund’s first completely free performance as a trick rider in the center ring. I love the way it’s set up and the beautiful details that are described.
The writing is exquisite and the descriptions are captivating. I was drawn into the world of the circus and everything that came with it. I felt like I was there watching the acts alongside the children eating popcorn on the hay bales. This novel is why I love historical fiction because I learn so much about history inside a beautiful story. Kristy has a gift for creating worlds with rich historical details and engaging story lines.
My one qualm with this novel is the ending. It had a bit too much action for me. And that action was a bit rushed. I think there was too much going on, and we jumped around a lot faster than the rest of the book. I can appreciate the way the prologue set up the ending. But I wasn’t sure why so many big twists had to happen all at once. I was satisfied with each of the protagonist’s individual journeys, but it got a bit distant from them at the end. However, it didn’t ruin the book for me which I am glad about because I really loved so much of this novel!
Overall, another great novel from Kristy Cambron! I love the rich historical setting and the beautifully developed characters. There is love and triumph; there is pain and violence; there are disappointments and surprises. It’s a beautiful novel.
What are your favorite historical settings?
Any favorite books set in circuses that you recommend?