“When I grow up I’m going to be gay,” he told her.
To this his mum could only gape.
“But why?” she managed eventually.
“Because I want to enjoy myself,” he replied.
One day, a man walks away from his life and joins the circus. It’s not for the glamour; he meets Vlad, the aerialist one night at the circus and follows him back to his trailer for a one night stand. The next day he follows and begs to be allowed to stay. His time at the circus isn’t full of excitement and showmanship; mostly he’s cleaning out the toilets and being insulted by the alcoholic clown or the angry ringmaster.
We never find out the protagonist’s name, he is constantly referred to as “he” and is a little confusing until you work out what’s going on. The narrative is split into alternating past, present and future tenses which, combined with the anonymity, caused me to struggle to get into the story. The past covers his childhood and his friendship, and ensuing relationship, with the slightly pretentious Edward. It soon becomes clear that something must have happened in the past to make him such a needy, wet blanket. He is one of the most emotionless main characters I have encountered, even the scene where he breaks down in front of Vlad, it seems a bit distant, especially as the reader is not told the story at that time.
The present is his time with the circus. It is a modern day affair with caravans and acrobatics but no animals. The story doesn’t really go into the inner workings of the industry which I was a bit disappointed with; I’d like to have compared it to what I’ve read on the golden age of the circus, but that’s entirely personal. “He” is around about 40 from what I gather yet he still lives at home and hasn’t done a single thing with his life. I suppose by the end, there is some justification for this, but it’s hard to read through his apathy.
Then there were the passages in future tense which I found really hard going. It’s not a style that is natural to read and, although I thought it was an interesting exercise in narrative, I felt it went on a little too long to be comfortable. This part deals with his time after he returns home from the circus, where something has happened to his mother and the neighbours are overly concerned about his welfare. Because he’s erecting a trapeze in his suburban home. Yet the writing about the trapeze is still absorbing, being something that Will Davis obviously has a passion for, himself having trained in corde lisse, tissu and static trapeze.
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