The Troupe by Robert J Bennett
Just finished reading the Troupe by Robert J Bennett. This book is without a doubt, not a shadow of it, brilliant. It is going on the list. If this book isn’t on best of year lists for many, many people, come the end of 2012 then all I can say is that (a) what is wrong with everyone! or (b) we must have had some damn fine books for the rest of the year. This read is intriguing, it’s compelling and I will just say, by way of warning, don’t pick this up unless you can put your life on hold and dedicate a few days to it whilst ignoring all your friends, family, work, dogs, social life, etc, etc. You get the picture.
This book tells the story of George, he’s part of a Vaudeville act. He’s a whizz on the piano. He’s desperately searching for something but pretty soon he’s going to be desperately running from something too. It’s a coming of age novel in a very unique setting and told by an amazing story teller. I’m basically not going to tell anything about the plot of this book. It needs to be original and fresh. Plenty of books, and films, are surrounded by hype and don’t live up to them. This one should be smothered in hype because it delivers. I loved it. Did I say that already?
Okay, not talking about the plot, so what else. The start. It just pulls you in. It’s beguiling. It puts a spell on you. You want to know what’s going on. The characters – they’re a rich bunch, George is by no means the best character – actually Silenus is definitely my favourite. The whole idea of this Vaudeville show – it’s so interesting to read about, we get a little glimpse into this type of life but in a way which is unreal and unnerving..
On top of that, we have fantasy. Such great imagination. There are bits of everything in here. I don’t know even know what genre you can put this into and that’s what makes it so great. No boxes. There are lots of things that this puts me in mind of – definitely Neverwhere, Labyrinth, Strange and Norrell, The book of Lost Things and other books so numerous that I won’t bore you, but whilst it conjures them all to mind it isn’t like any of them. It’s original. I was reading it and it was evoking memories of other novels but it wasn’t making me think it was a carbon copy, it just simply made me think of them.
Other elements – creepiness, gothic storytelling, elements of horror. Hair standing up on the back of your neck wondering why you sat up so late to read by yourself and now you’re the last one up and have to turn the lights off. All I can say is the Puppets!
Do I have any criticisms. Maybe if I thought about it really hard I might conjure something up, pull the rabbit out of the hat. But, nothing springs to mind right now.
I love this book and I think everybody should read it. Highly recommended.