The Aussie Bush Circus

Haxby's Circus by Katharine Susannah Prichard

Paperback, 288 pages, Published August 1st 2013 by HarperCollins - AU (first published 1930)

"You play with an idea. Then it hypnotises you. The comedy becomes tragedy."

This is a corker of a novel and captures the difficulties for women involved in a travelling family circus troupe.
The head of the family Dan Haxby is a showman through and through and nothing is more important than putting on the show. When we first meet the family times are tough but they are making a living and doing what they love. Gina Haxby is a hard worker out of the ring, making sure animals are fed, costumes are ready and then she performs the most difficult of tricks on the back of a horse in the ring. She is vivacious and is able to see the soul of a person not their physical appearance. Rocca the show's clown dwarf becomes fast friends with Gina. It is he who can see her intelligence and that she is more than just a performer. He also confides to her the reason why he performs and allows the people to laugh at him. These early moments become so poignant at the end of the novel as Gina suffers a terrible accident that prevents her from riding and performing in the circus. Yet she is a survivor and how she achieves that is what makes this novel exceptional.
Prichard is a fabulous writer, her descriptions capture the essence of people and scenery. You really do feel that you are part of the circus. There are clues placed into the story that hint at what may happen to the characters. I was swept into this novel and read it in a day. The characters are so beautifully created. The women, Gina, her mother Lotty, sisters Maxine and Lil are some of the best female characters I have come across. They are fallible, brave, resourceful, loyal to the family.
There are a couple of sections that become long lists of towns that slow the pace down. That is a minor quibble for a story that gives voice to Australian female characters.
This is just a great read.