cover image The Trapeze Artist

The Trapeze Artist

Will Davis. Bloomsbury, $16 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-62040-003-6

The unnamed protagonist in Davis’s semiautobiographical third novel (after Dream Machine), unhappy with his dreary existence living with his mother and working as a caretaker for elderly invalids in provincial England, literally runs off with the circus, where he finds a home on the road and love with the star attraction, a Romanian aerialist named Vlad. When the third-rate traveling show breaks up, our lovesick hero goes home to find his mother incapacitated by strokes, and in order to build his own indoor trapeze, he takes a sledgehammer to the family house. Whatever nutty charm this premise suggests is sundered by Davis’s leaden prose. It is unfortunately ironic that a novel that takes as its subject frustration with the drabness of ordinary life should itself be so cluttered with clichés and stock characters. An overly complex narrative structure, interweaving three separate time frames in the protagonist’s life, cannot save this novel from crashing to earth. Agent: Peter Buckman, the Ampersand Agency (U.K.). (Dec.)