The Swan Gondola
Timothy Schaffert’s The Swan Gondola is about our Midwestern Great Grandparents, rubes from the farm, coming to Omaha’s great World’s Fair in 1898. (This was the same year Chicago hogged all the attention with its better known World’s Fair.) His characters are all manner of country mice who come to the big show only to be fleeced by city mice in fancy outfits.
It begins with a quote from The Wizard of Oz, as a hot air balloon lands on a Nebraska farm house, producing a ventriloquist, our protagonist. It takes him little time to fall in love with a Marie Antoinette impersonator, and then the plot takes off like a rocket. Schaffert, a native of Omaha, obviously had the time of his life researching this lively, witty piece of nostalgia, adventure and romance. Read it for the history, for Midwestern ancestors clodhopping through the greatest thing that ever happened in Nebraska. Best novel I’ve read this year.