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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Book Review: Queen of the Air By Dean Jensen

Queen of the Air 
By Dean Jensen



I received this book free from Read It Forward. I like true stories and autobiographies so I was SO glad I was selected to get this one. It was written from the unique perspective of "having been there". What makes that unique is the story starts before the turn of the century. Also unique is that the author was able to talk to many of the people who were related to and worked with Leitzel  "The Queen of the Air" as she was known. Most if not all those people are now deceased, making the in-depth research Mr. Jensen was able to gather virtually impossible. To get first person perspective from those that knew her and knew the circus atmosphere, really lent a special touch to the story.
Dean Jensen's writing at times pulled me so far, that in that in my mind's eye, I felt I was actually seeing the circus performers whirling through the air. At the same time I found the book totally fascinating because alongside the personal story of the Leitzel and Alfredo, you see the history of the circus from it's fairly humble beginnings, as it was built into a colossus that it became in it's heyday. There's lots of insight into the circus way of life. I have always loved the circus and knew the performers worked hard, but with this inside view, I realize it is even more than that. It is a way of life that many of the performers are born into, carrying on legacies begun with their parents and even their grandparents. I was reading this book as Nik Wallenda walked the tightrope across a gorge near the Grand Canyon. As I heard people saying he was crazy and asking "how could he do that?", I began to understand, if only a little... His family is mentioned in this book and their story, also began before the turn of the century, became woven into Leitzel and Alfredo's story after they joined the Ringling Bro. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. I finished this book just as I was hearing about Sarah Guillot-Guyard's tragic fall during the Cirque du Soleil performance of "Ka" in Las Vegas. After reading this book, I have an appreciation for these performers. They are just as driven and dedicated at the "old school" flyers. And they are doing something they truly love doing.

At the core of this story is the truly tragic love story of two people destined to come together. Leitzel and Alfredo, born on different continents, but born into the same life of circus performers, met as teenagers. After many twists and turns in their careers and fortunes, they are reunited. Both possessed tempers that could flare hotter than the sun and egos larger than the Big Top itself. Their talents put them at the top of circus hierarchy, living as large as many Hollywood stars. Unbeknownst to them or anyone else, they were creating what would become circus legend and lore that would last long after their time. 

Since I enjoy reading true stories, I found this book to be a very good read and would recommend it to anyone that enjoys non-fiction 

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Disclaimer: I was not paid for this review. I received this book as a member of the Read It Forward community  where people sign up and are randomly selected to receive free books that are uncorrected proofs. All opinions expressed here are my own and your may differ. 

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