ARC: The Flying Circus

The Flying Circus captures the fun and the wonder--and the danger--of early air travel. #spon | A book review from Newbery and Beyond

Note: I received a free ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Set in the rapidly changing world of 1920s America, this is a story of three people from very different backgrounds: Henry “Schuler” Jefferson, son of German immigrants from Midwestern farm country; Cora Rose Haviland, a young woman of privilege whose family has lost their fortune; and Charles “Gil” Gilchrist, an emotionally damaged WWI veteran pilot. Set adrift by life-altering circumstances, they find themselves bound together by need and torn apart by blind obsessions and conflicting goals. Each one holds a secret that, if exposed, would destroy their friendship. But their journey of adventure and self-discovery has a price—and one of them won’t be able to survive it. (Summary via

I enjoyed a lot of things about this book, and I disliked many others, but I’m having a hard time articulating exactly what those things were. To hopefully alleviate this terrible lack of words that make sense, this review will take on bulletpoint form. Onward!

  • The setting, first of all, was pretty great. I love to read about cool things I’ll probably never see in person, like flying circuses, and read about people who do those things that I’ll probably never do. Barnstorming is awesome, and I so wish I could have seen a wingwalker perform! [Update: after a quick YouTube search, I found some awesome vintage clips of barnstormers doing their thing! You can see it here.]
  • However, the characters themselves were a bit stereotypical. Henry is a young man running from his past (a murder that was pinned on him and a town that rejected his entire German family during WWI) who has difficulty believing women are useful for something other than being protected. Cora is a young daredevil woman running from an arranged marriage, longing for something more in a time when women were expected to stay home and raise babies. Gil is scarred from his part in World War One, and he lives an itinerant lifestyle, only finding joy in the air. Of course, these stereotypes are stereotypes because they work, but I wish the characters had been given a bit more depth.
  • The plot had a lot of interesting interwoven pieces for each character. Will Henry ever be cleared of the murder charge he is running from? Will Cora’s family accept her decision to become a barnstormer? What happened to Gil during the war that scarred him so much? Can these three damaged and rootless people get along well enough to make the money they need to survive?
  • On the other hand, with so many plot threads, some are inevitably dropped. Cora’s story, for one, I felt was not done justice to.

If you’re into historical fiction about lesser-known American phenomena (I certainly am), you’ll probably enjoy The Flying Circus. Just be forewarned of the weaknesses of this book.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

About Monica

I am obsessed with all things books. I'm a music teacher by day and a freelance editor by night.

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