Finch and Birdie Franconi (to use their stage names) are twins. They are circus performers in Britain. They perform in the family circus and in the circus school Franconi’s. Their specialty act is as trapeze artists. Birdie is usually the flyer, the one clinging to the trapeze, while Finch is usually the catcher. The school is in trouble. The twins must mount an end of term show successful enough to recruit more students and generate the money to keep the school from collapsing.
The novel poses the question whether the twins can actually mount the show needed to save the school, and how their attempt will have its impact on their family of circus folk.
As far as this reviewer is aware, this is a unique book. It depicts the world of circus performers from the inside with a wealth of specialised knowledge of the strains and pains that world must endure. The book presents some memorable characters. Hector Hazard is a trainee clown who is to start with almost an unbelievably poor performer. His efforts to improve are engagingly presented, Lou is the twins’ grandmother. She pushes a trolley around, drinks whisky and swears loudly at teenagers. The message if the book is the validity of identity: if you are true to yourself it is OK to be different. The author is true to her own creed. Her book is unusual and true to itself and profoundly satisfying.