Synopses & Reviews
A lush and thrilling romantic fable about two lovers, set against the scandalous burlesques, midnight séances, and aerial ballets of the 1898 Omaha Worlds Fair.
On the eve of the 1898 Omaha Worlds Fair, Ferret Skerritt, ventriloquist by trade, con man by birth, isnt 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 Midways 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, transforms changes everything, and the fairs magic begins to take its effect.
Reminiscent of Water for Elephants or The Night Circus, The Swan Gondola is a transporting read.
"The latest from Schaffert (The Coffins of Little Hope) is a love story set during the 1898 Omaha World's Fair. 'Ferret' Skerritt is a ventriloquist who becomes smitten with Cecily, a beauty who comes to town with the fair's Chamber of Horrors (she plays Marie Antoinette and is beheaded hourly). Deciphering Cecily's many secrets, including the contents of her mysteriously heavy carpet bag, is just the first challenge Ferret faces in courting her: soon William Wakefield, the fair's wealthy patron, sees Cecily and decides he wants her for himself. Schaffert's picture of the fair is enchanting, from the buildings that shimmer with 'shattered glass that had been dusted over the whitewash' to the midway attractions, including a theatre where Cecily and Ferret briefly hang from wires and dance in midair. As the two lovers become embroiled with Wakefield, however, the novel loses some of its magic. Additionally, the frequent Wizard of Oz allusions build to nothing. But there are many romantic and historical delights here, and, despite its imperfections, it's easy to imagine this charming novel attaining Water for Elephants like popularity with readers. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Timothy Schaffert grew up on a farm in Nebraska and now lives in Omaha. He is the author of The Swan Gondola as well as four previous critically acclaimed novels, which have been among Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selections, Indie Next Picks, and New York Times Editor's Choices. Schaffert teaches creative writing and literature at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.