Sunday, August 13, 2006

Revuew: Patti Frazee's Cirkus


Patti Frazee. Cirkus
Published by Alyson
Reviewed by Stephen Shieber


Patti Frazee’s debut novel is an ambitious tale of a Czech circus rail-roading through America at the beginning of the 20th Century. Frazee introduces us to a host of colourful sideshow characters: Mariana, the Romany fortune-teller, Shanghai, a fire-breathing dwarf and, most memorably, Atasha and Anna, the conjoined twins. The parallels between the inhabitants of the freak show and the Queer Outsider perspective are subtly delineated as these central characters struggle to find love and meaning in their closed and fantastical world.

There is rich material for a complex and memorable novel here. In the hands of a more assured writer, this is exactly what Cirkus would be. However, Frazee seems to flounder in the face of her material. Her writing is frequently clichéd. In her efforts to give each of the central characters a voice, she moves the focus of her novel around dizzyingly, sometimes leaving the reader bemused. The twist the plot turns on is disappointingly obvious. Cirkus has all the right ingredients to be a success: romance, tragedy, huge emotions and unique characters. Unfortunately, these elements are dealt with too superficially for the novel to leave a lasting impression.

Stephen Shieber is a writer and teacher in the North East of England. His work can be seen online as well as in the Tonto Press Anthology.

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