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The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway
  

The Floating Theatre

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June 2017 Book of the Month.

Brimming with stunning writing and historical illuminations, this captivates the heart and enlightens the mind. It’s 1838 in pre-Civil War America, and the Ohio River snakes between the free states of the North, and the slave states of the South. Twenty-two-year-old May is her cousin Comfort’s “seamstress, dresser, and trunk packer. And a hundred other things as well” when the steamboat they’re on sinks. While actress Comfort is taken in by wealthy abolitionist Flora Howard, and hired to give speeches for her cause, there's no role for May. But being “quite independent in spirit”, as Flora describes her, and an exceptionally skilled seamstress, May finds work with Hugo and Helena's Floating Theatre, a fabulously evoked flatboat that travels up and down the river, coasting the border between the North and South.

What follows is the captivating account of a young woman's serpentine navigation of ghosts from her past, secrets, betrayal, and love, at great personal risk, in a land split by slavery. Dazzling, involving, and immensely memorable, I was swept away by the flow of this remarkable novel.

A 'Piece of Passion' from the Publisher...

‘A compelling, beautiful and passionate novel The Floating Theatre completely swept me away. With great skill Martha Conway immerses her readers in a time of great turmoil, skilfully weaving sumptuous historical detail into a brilliant narrative peopled with characters that in 1830s United States could only ever find a home on a theatrical riverboat sailing the country’s North-South divide. And in May Bedloe she creates a heroine whose quiet strength and inquisitive nature makes for a page-turning read. A powerful, moving novel about compromise, courage, friendship and love, and one woman’s struggle to find her way in a world riddled with danger, The Floating Theatre is a story I knew I had to publish as soon as I read it. I hope you love this as much as I do.’ ~ Eleanor Dryden, Editor, Zaffre

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Synopsis

The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway

In a nation divided by prejudice, everyone must take a side. 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 in to 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 ...

Reviews

'The Floating Theatre is both a dear love story and a page-turning adventure about the Underground Railroad-and an unwilling participant. An extraordinary cast of memorable characters gives this book irresistible appeal while the setting on the watery boundary between North and South places them in dangerous and morally ambiguous territory. A captivating, thoughtful and unforgettable read.' -- Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House and Glory over Everything

'It is part of Martha Conway's gift as a writer to weave stories from the richest and most interesting periods of American history. Set on a nineteenth century floating theatre on the Ohio River, The Floating Theatre is a riveting and atmospheric novel about slavery, betrayal and redemption, with a memorably forthright heroine, and a plot as fast flowing and twisty as the river itself.' -- Louisa Treger, author of The Lodger

'Set in 1837 and shy seamstress May Bedloe takes on a job on the wondrous Floating Theatre, a flat boat that sails the Ohio river performing plays to townsfolk. But the reappearance of a couple from May's past threatens everything she has worked for' The Bookseller

About the Author

Martha Conway

Martha Conway's first novel, 12 Bliss Street, was nominated for an Edgar Award, and her latest novel, Thieving Forest, won the North American Book Award for Best Historical Fiction. Her short fiction has been published in The Iowa Review, The Carolina Quarterly, The Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, Epoch, Folio, and other journals. A recipient of a California Arts Council Fellowship, Martha teaches creative writing for Stanford University's Continuing Studies Program and UC Berkeley Extension. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, she is one of seven sisters. She now lives in San Francisco with her family.

Click here to read a Q&A with Martha Conway.

Author Photo © Noah Hawthorne

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Book Info

Publication date

15th June 2017

Author

Martha Conway

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Author's Website

marthaconway.com/

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Publisher

Zaffre Publishing

Format

Hardback
352 pages

Categories

Historical Fiction
Books of the Month
Reading Groups
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Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

ISBN

9781785762901

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