The Catch Trap by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

A magnificent, colorful novel of the circus world of the 1940s and 1950s, rich in detail, bursting with power and emotion.
Mario Santelli, a member of the famous flying Santelli family, is a great trapeze artist. Tommy Zane is his protege.
As naturally and gracefully as they soar through the air, the two flyers find themselves falling in love. Mario and Tommy share sweet stolen moments of passion, but the real intensity of their relationship comes from their total devotion to one another and to their art.
As public figures in a conservative era, they cannot reveal their love. But they will never renounce it.
A tremendously moving tale, a rich family saga, a wise and compassionate portrait of a special love in a special world.
Synopsis via Fantastic Fiction.

The Catch Trap was an incredibly moving story and I really liked it much. Below are a few of my random thoughts. For a far more insightful analysis I suggest you check out Teddy Pig’s review, he’s the reason I spent considerable time ringing 2nd hand book shops around the country trying to get hold of it! Which is what good reviews do, they should illustrate that the novel has touched someone in some way and give you, the reader, some impetus to whip out your much abused credit card.

So, in short, 2 guys meet while working in the circus. Tommy is younger, considerably so at the beginning, and Mario is older, in years anyway (his emotional maturity left something to be desired at times!) They meet, they eventually become lovers and so on. But the story doesn’t just hook you in with longing looks and the faint hint of manlove moments, it’s also an authentic accounts of circus life that makes your remember why, at age 10 and spandex was still an option, you were ready to jump out the window in the night and join a troupe of acrobats.

In other reviews I’ve read there are some issues about the age gap when Mario and Tommy start fooling around. I didn’t find it objectionable, mainly because it was consensual and there was a authentic ring to it. I’m sure you could be all hurumph about it, but to be honest aren’t most teens that age fooling around doing something? I dunno. I think we as adults often see sex as an action loaded with power, connotations, consequences blah blah. I seem to remember that kind of thing not really being at the forefront of my mind at that age, nor were they guiding my actions either. So yeah, I thought it was pretty hot and heavy, with a realistic and accessible note that struck a chord.

Thematically there is a lot going on in this big ass book. It is lengthy and at times long winded. There are lovely bits of teen angst, Mario periodically throws himself on the cross and Tommy has these little pockets of youthful insight that are just delicious. There’s the sweet ache of a teenager leaving home, becoming autonomous and loads of courage too. I thought Tommy’s obvious emotional attachment not only to Mario, but to the Santelli family was nicely done. The theme of  feeling disconnected and without community is also explored. The author even managed to have a bit of a go at inter generation family dynamics. You name it, this book’s got it. It works for the most part, despite it being a bit of a tome and that the occasional WTF moment —> see Tommy’s parents.

There were defnitely issues in the book and it’s not always perfect, but liked it anyway. Beautiful, erotic, sad, long, romantic and just really damn cool. If you can get a copy, give it a crack and read TP’s review, just cause its great.

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