The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway

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The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A romantic, transporting read, The Floating Theatre tells a dangerous tale of intrigue and passion on the waterways of 19th century America.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: June 2017
Publisher: Zaffre
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1785762901

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When young seamstress May Bedloe is left alone and penniless on the shore of the Ohio, she finds work on the famous floating theatre that plies its trade along the river. Her creativity and needlework skills quickly become invaluable and she settles into life among the colourful troupe of actors. She finds friends, and possibly the promise of more. But cruising the border between the Confederate South and the 'free' North is fraught with danger. For the sake of a debt that must be repaid, May is compelled to transport secret passengers, under cover of darkness, across the river and on, along the underground railroad. But as May's secrets become harder to keep, she learns she must endanger those now dear to her.

And to save the lives of others, she must risk her own...

Martha Conway is an author from Conway Ohio and has previously published four novels; three falling into this historical fiction category much like The Floating Theatre. Born and raised in Ohio, she's a creative writing instructor at Stanford University, and lives in San Francisco with her family.

The Floating Theatre is a book that took me deep into territory I'd never explored all that much in books before - pre Civil War America and the divide between the Northern and Southern states. It's ripe for storytelling opportunities, and Conway explores the opportunity with considerable skill, immersing the reader in the world with ease, and crafting a remarkably memorable lead character to guide the character.

May Bedloe is a young seamstress, an immediately distinctive and likeable voice for the reader to connect with. Independent, funny and straightforward, she struggles in her interactions with others – unable to lie and rather blunt in her statements, and it's strongly suggested that she's somewhere on the autistic spectrum. It's fascinating to see her soften and change as the story goes on, finding new drive in her work and potentially new love too… The whole slave situation is dealt with well – Conway makes sure to convey to the reader what a serious and troubling issue slavery is, with a few well placed reminders of what a barbaric and horrific practice it could be. She balances this theme well with the overall plot, allowing the aspects of slavery to give the book a serious tone, but allowing some lightness when dealing with May and her life in the theatre.

Engaging, involving and powerful, The Floating Theatre transported me to a world that, thankfully, has passed – one filled with danger, fear and barbarity, but also excitement, passion and romance. With May by your side, take a ride on the Floating Theatre and explore the rivers of America – you'll be glad you climbed on board.

Many thanks to the publishers for the copy, and for further reading I recommend The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan, another riveting read set on the water full of change, growth, and love.

Buy The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway at

Buy The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway at


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