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  • Riverside Entertainment

    This tale is as sumptuous as the cover would have you believe. Indeed, so rich in detail is it that you almost feel that you can smell that river mud. The Floating Theatre follows the lives of May Bedloe and her cousin Comfort Vertue. From the theatres of New York they journey to get to St. Louis where the ageing Comfort has been promised a place in the troupe of one of the theatres. The river trip is doomed to end in failure as the Captain overstokes the boilers in his haste to run the fastest time between piers and an explosion ensues. Stranded in a strange town with all their belongings lost May is just grateful that she and her cousin have survived. Plying her trade as a seamstress gets May accepted on to Hugo and Helena's Floating Theatre. A barge-like vehicle which travels on the Ohio River which splits the Free North States and the Slave South States; they call in at small towns down the river and provide a vaudeville style entertainment for 20 cents a person (a dime for the children). Told from May's perspective the story races ahead at a strong trot and her voice is so clear and strong by the end of the book you believe you know this young woman. From her unfortunate propensity to say whatever she thinks, no matter how inopportune, to her unique view of the people she lives cheek by jowl with; May is a full and completely empathetic character. Even the minor characters within the book, such as Celia, are brought to life. Although a large portion of the book deals with the Slave Trade within the States in the early - mid 1800s the most vivid passages are definitely dealing with life on the boat and the productions. It gives a good sense of the views in both the Northern and Southern States on Slaves and their treatment without overegging the pudding. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and was sad to reach the last page and exit this glowing world.

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