Book Review

Review: The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert

swan gondola by timothy schaffert

Published: February 11, 2014

Number of pages: 454

Format: hardcover

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Genre: romantic, historical fiction, tragedy

Rating: older adults

Verdict: 3 owl hoots out of 5


It’s 1898 and the Omaha World Fair arrives. Ferret Skerrit, a ventriloquist visits the fair only to meet Cecily at the Chamber of Horrors where she plays Marie Antoinette. When their paths cross, Ferret realizes right then and there that he’s only purpose is to be with the woman he’s fallen for. After Cecily finally falls for his advances, they take a ride on the swan gondola and the fair’s magic takes into effect. But an archrival comes between them, Billy Wakefield, who takes Cecily away. With the help of his friends, Ferret finds his way towards her and the two become star cross lovers at the fair.

My Review:

I loved reading The Night Circus and The Museum of Extraordinary Things so when I came across this book with a similar concept of star cross lovers meeting at a magical world fair, I picked it up.

The story got off to a great start with Ferret describing the Omaha World Fair in 1898. With the sights, the smells, the atmosphere, it almost felt like I was there as we see the fair in he’s eyes. And then we meet Cecily, who plays the beheaded Marie Antoinette at the Chamber of Horrors and a spark of romance ignites as Ferret tries (and fails) to court her for the first time. I thought it funny how Ferret stumbles to get her attention until finally, they meet at the swan gondola and their relationship begins, but ends unexpectedly when Billy Wakefield comes and steals her away.

I absolutely love the character, Ferret and his cynic nature along with his charismatic friends. They help him reunite with his love and without them, I don’t think our hero would have gone anywhere close to the President’s dinner or to Wakefield’s mansion. I also love how the story was written beginning with a surprise visit by Ferret for the Egan sisters as they were sipping their tea like it was any other morning, and as he tells his story about how he first met Cecily, we’re introduced to his letters to her filled with promises and hope. As soon as we get to the part where he flies away in a balloon we’re drawn back to the present where the story continues off to a new future for Ferret and his friends.

This was a beautiful love story that swept me up my feet with it’s unlikely twists, heartbreaks, and nightmares. If you’re looking for a hopelessly romantic love story then this is the book for you. This is a very fairy tale-like story about star cross lovers, arch enemies, friends and unexpected allies. I only gave this book 3/5 because there were some spiritual and mysticism parts that I thought were skeptical. But the story becomes fast-paced that by they time I reached the middle, I couldn’t put it down because I just had to know what became of Cecily and what our hero, Ferret would do next to win her back.

A story set in magical world fair in Omaha with colorful performers and acrobats, automatons, fortunetellers, spiritualists, and a hopeful ventriloquist with a brave heart. If you loved reading about magicians and circuses, then you’re going to love reading about a fictional world fair that becomes an unlikely backdrop to an unforgettable romance.


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