The Carnival at Bray wasn’t even on my radar. I’d never seen nor heard of this book prior to it being selected as a Traveling Book in one of my Goodreads groups. If not the lovely book tour, I likely would never have heard of it.
Having graduated in ’97, the time frame of 1993-1995 was one that I remember quite vividly, and is what initially drew me into the story. Confession time: I was never ever a Grunge Girl. I liked ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ but that was the extent of my Nirvana listening. I wasn’t a fan of Smashing Pumpkins. I was most definitely a Pop girl, and if I stretch, more of an R&B girl. I would have made Uncle Kevin nauseated. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate Uncle Kevin’s words, and the heart behind the story. Ultimately that musical story was the best part, so good that even I appreciated it.
Overall The Carnival at Bray was a slow story. It was about family, the good parts and the messed up parts. It was about learning see yourself clearly, I think.
There were two specific aspects of the story in particular that I just loved.
First, Maggie had a really special relationship with her mom’s youngest brother, Uncle Kevin. Uncle Kevin is where she got her love of music, but he was also troubled. Even though as a parent I could understand the worry about Maggie’s closeness with Kevin, I also thought that the friendship they had between them was really sweet. I think that the lessons that Kevin tried to give Maggie were valuable, even if sometimes he screwed up in the teaching. Most of the time I actually found myself agreeing with him, and I personally thought Maggie’s mother was just as screwed up as Kevin was and in a lot of ways a far worse role model.
Uncle Kevin will probably be the #1 part of The Carnival at Bray that will stick with me.
The second thing that I loved was 98 year old Dan Sean that lived on the hillside above Colm’s house where Maggie and her family lived. Maggie didn’t have many friends, but that was okay because the unusual friendship that sparked up between Dan Sean and Maggie was far more beneficial than anything she would have found in a group of shallow girls. In Dan Sean Maggie found a Grandfather (or Great Grandfather, if you will), and Dan Sean got an adopted grand daughter.
She was going to stay, and she was going to love Eoin, always, because that’s what living people do. They shatter and rebuild, shatter and rebuild, shatter and rebuild until they are old and worn and stooped from the work of it.
‘Worn and stooped’, like Dan Sean. Maggie learned so much from so many quiet nights with Dan Sean.
The Carnival at Bray wasn’t even on my radar before, but it definitely is now. Hopefully my review puts it on your radar because I think that it’s a book that mainstream readers are missing out on.
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