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The Swan Gondola: A Novel

Emmaline and Hester, known in the county as the Old Sisters Egan, took their coffee cowboy-style, the grounds fried-up in a pan to a bitter sludge, then stirred into china teacups of hot water. 

“On the eve of the 1898 Omaha World’s Fair, Ferret Skerritt, ventriloquist by trade, con man by birth, isn’t quite sure how it will change him or his city. Omaha still has the marks of a filthy Wild West town, even as it attempts to achieve the grandeur and respectability of nearby Chicago. But when he crosses paths with the beautiful and enigmatic Cecily, his whole purpose shifts and the fair becomes the backdrop to their love affair. One of a traveling troupe of actors that has descended on the city, Cecily works in the Midway’s Chamber of Horrors, where she loses her head hourly on a guillotine playing Marie Antoinette. And after closing, she rushes off, clinging protectively to a mysterious carpetbag, never giving Ferret a second glance. But a moonlit ride on the swan gondola, a boat on the lagoon of the New White City, changes everything, and the fair’s magic begins to take its effect.”

I had high hopes for this novel, but sadly they were not met. Although I read 200 pages of it, I was never very engaged or interested in the story. I kept hoping it would get better and achieve the Night Circus wonder I was promised, but it didn’t and I finally gave up. 

The descriptions had the potential to be splendid, but they weren’t. Same with the characters and the historical setting. Omaha in 1898? That’s pretty unusual, and I was intrigued to see how it would be portrayed. It wasn’t; the author tries to describe it, but the language was never compelling or magical. The World’s Fair seemed like it could of been an interesting and glamorous setting, but alas, it wasn’t. The thing is, there was so much potential for great description, but instead it was flat and lifeless. After a little less than half of the book, I’d had enough.

I received an ARC from Riverhead; The Swan Gondola came out last week. 

454 pages. 

DNF.

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