Saturday, January 12, 2013

My Favorite Novel of 2012 - The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

I've never written about a favorite novel for an entire year before. I read and like, even love, many novels, but no novel has really stood out to the point that I thought of it in those terms. For 2012 though, I do have a favorite novel - The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett. The Troupe broke my rating system. I've stopped giving Qwills to books because once I read this exceptional novel I realized how inadequate my rating system was. I may retool it. I may just let you read my words.

This is one of those novels that is so remarkably good that I have been afraid that nothing I say about it could possibly do the novel justice, but I will try.

The Troupe
Orbit, February 21, 2012
Trade Paperback and eBook, 512 pages

Vaudeville: mad, mercenary, dreamy, and absurd, a world of clashing cultures and ferocious showmanship and wickedly delightful deceptions.

But sixteen-year-old pianist George Carole has joined vaudeville for one reason only: to find the man he suspects to be his father, the great Heironomo Silenus. Yet as he chases down his father's troupe, he begins to understand that their performances are strange even for vaudeville: for wherever they happen to tour, the very nature of the world seems to change.

Because there is a secret within Silenus's show so ancient and dangerous that it has won him many powerful enemies. And it's not until after he joins them that George realizes the troupe is not simply touring: they are running for their lives.

And soon...he is as well.

My thoughts:

The Troupe is a deeply evocative novel, at times elegiac, at times terrifying and always stunning. It is about a young man's search for the father he has never known as well as his coming of age story. For me The Troupe, at its heart, is about love. A father's love for his son, a son's love for his father and the lengths to which people will go to protect those they love and the world in which they live.

The story is set in a world where the supernatural exists, yet is not in plain sight. Mr. Bennett has created a remarkable mythos for The Troupe. We are transported from the mundane to the extraordinary and back again throughout the novel: from 1930s Vaudeville theater to immense dreamscapes; from small towns to a Fae court. We are also transported seamlessly from one emotional landscape to the next.

Silenus' Vaudeville troupe is filled with finely wrought and deeply compelling characters. Each has their own story and their own reasons for being part of the troupe. Throughout the story we learn why this odd collection of characters is together much to my delight and horror (usually at different times).

I found The Troupe deeply moving. There are several breathtaking moments as the story moves to it's conclusion which is both heartbreaking and hopeful. The writing is superb. The characters memorable. The story entrancing. For all these reasons, The Troupe is my favorite novel of 2012.

1 comment:

  1. OK, OK, you've interested me! The Troupe is added to the TBR list. (The TBR list that YOU have already bloated beyond reason, durn you! :p)