Masters of Illusion: A Novel of the Connecticut Circus Fire

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In an historical novel based on the 1944 Barnum & Bailey's circus tent fire that killed hundreds, two survivors reexamine their lives and marriage while seeking the fire's true cause. By the author of The Port of Missing Men.
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First Good [ No Hassle 30 Day Returns ] [ Edition: First ] Publisher: Grand Central Publishing Pub Date: 6/13/1994 Binding: Hardcover Pages: 224.

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Overview

In an historical novel based on the 1944 Barnum & Bailey's circus tent fire that killed hundreds, two survivors reexamine their lives and marriage while seeking the fire's true cause. By the author of The Port of Missing Men.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The fire that roared through the Barnum & Bailey Circus tent in Hartford, Conn., on July 6, 1944, took 169 lives and injured 2000 others. Tirone-Smith ( The Book of Phoebe ) makes that conflagration central to her new novel, a skillfully controlled, moving psychological exploration of secrets, traumas and family relationships. The narrator, Margie Potter, was only six months old on the day her mother took her to the circus; her mother perished, and Maggie herself bears livid scars on her back. Having spent her youth repressing her memories and burying herself in books, Margie marries an intense fireman, Charlie O'Neill, who is singularly obsessed with the fire and determined to find the arsonist whom he is certain set the blaze. Over the years Charlie becomes more and more compulsive about tracking down leads, emotionally distancing himself from Margie and their feisty daughter Martha. The clue to his obsessive dedication, and to the arsonist's identity, comes only when Margie begins to acknowledge her own complicity in his monomania. In matching her narrative tone with her heroine's lower-middle class diction and deliberate emotional restraint, the author risks a slow beginning in order to build suspense in subtle increments. She keeps the prose cool and spare, so that when harrowing details and jolting surprises gradually occur, the effect is potent. The final epiphany opens the narrative in an extraordinary way, forcing the reader to reassess everything. This daringly imagined novel adds a new dimension to an already impressive body of work. (May)
Library Journal
The intrusion of the past into the lives of Charlie and Margie O'Neill is revealed in a deceptively simple story with its roots in the historical 1944 Barnum & Bailey circus tent fire, in Hartford, Connecticut, which killed more than 150 people and injured over a thousand women and children. Ten-year-old Charlie, who had a ticket to the circus, grows up to become a fire fighter, determined to discover who set the fire and why. He marries Margie Potter, the fire's youngest survivor, who has no memories of the event that killed her mother and left her back badly scarred. Despite a somewhat predictable plot, this is a book with quiet appeal. Likable characters and good psychological insights make this fourth novel by the author of The Port of Missing Men (LJ 4/15/89) an appropriate choice for larger fiction collections.-Nancy Pearl, Washington Center for the Book, Seattle
Mary Ellen Quinn
On July 6, 1944, 169 people died and more than 1,000 were injured in a circus fire in Hartford, Connecticut. Margie Potter is only six months old when her mother is killed, and she herself is badly burned in the fire, but the event marks the rest of her life. When she is 18, she meets and marries Charlie O'Neill, a fireman whose special interest is what happened at the circus fire; having grown up with just her father, Margie is both fascinated and repelled by Charlie's large family, with his brutal father and passive mother. After he and Margie marry, Charlie's interest in the circus fire becomes an obsession. His quest eventually takes him and Margie to Canada, where a psychopath has confessed to setting the fire. This novel is a curious mix--a suspense story on one level; on another level, a story about a marriage; and on yet another, a novel about the horrifying effects of being raised in an abusive family.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446518062
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 12/26/2001
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 4, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    PERSONAL & INSIGHTFUL

    HAVING READ "GIRLS OF A TENDER AGE" BY NARY-ANN I WAS ANXIOUS TO READ "MASTERS OF ILLUSION". I WAS NOT DISAPPOINNTED!. THIS STORY GRASPS YOUR ATTENTION AND ACTUALLY ALLOWS YOU TO VIZUALIZE THRUOUT.
    I HAVED LIVED IN CT FOR THE PAST 48 YEARS AND HAVE KNOW ABOUT THIS TRAGEDY
    AND PEOPLE WHO WERE THERE/OR WERE SUPPOSED TO BE THERE ON THAT TRAGIC DAY. I MYSELF WAS AT THE CIRCUS SET UP IN PROVIDENCE IN THE PREVIOUS DAYS WATCHING THE TENT BEING SET UP.
    THE CHARACTERS ARE VERY BELIEVABLE!!! I WOULD READ THIS AUTHORS WORK IN THE FUTURE.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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