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The story of aerialist Lillian Leitzel, known as "Leitzel, Queen of the Air," and Alfredo Codona, a member of the Flying Codonas, is a true account of the biggest stars ever to appear with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. They were household names during the early part of the 20th century-the Brad and Angelina of the circus world. Born poor, Leitzel became "Queen of the Circus" and acted like one throughout her life. She had many loves but the greatest was Alfredo, a trapeze flyer, the only one who could perform the Triple: three somersaults in midair. Jensen follows their lives in parallel until their fateful meeting, their eventual marriage, and tragic ends. Though a dramatic story that would interest readers who liked Water for Elephants, it is hindered by the florid prose (e.g., "showgirls of ripened figures" and "he clamped his furry mouth over her lips") and the unfortunate habit of putting words and thoughts in the mouths and heads of people long dead. Verdict More like a novel than a well-researched work of nonfiction, this engaging book will appeal to readers who like books with circus themes.-Rosellen Brewer, Sno-Isle Libs., Marysville, WA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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Jensen, a former art critic, longtime art dealer, and perennial fan of the weird (his last book was The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton: A True Story of Conjoined Twins), explores the lives, love, and tragic ends of two superstars of the Big Top's golden age, aerialist Lillian Leitzel and flyer Alfredo Codona. Both were born into the circus-Leitzel's mother was a famed performer in Eastern Europe, and Alfredo's family ran Mexico's Gran Circo Codona. Leitzel began training on the Roman rings as a young child and made her professional debut in 1902 at just 12 years old-the same age as her mother when Leitzel was born. She became an instant star. She was performing with the legendary Barnum & Bailey Circus in Chicago less than 10 years later when Alfredo first set eyes on her and fell madly in love. Alfredo was determined to win the tiny trapeze artist and master the elusive and deadly Triple, consisting of three consecutive midair somersaults; a decade later he'd perfected the stunt, and shortly thereafter he and Leitzel, a fiery couple, were wed. What follows is a shocking and heartbreaking denouement. Artfully choreographed, this act is sure to draw big audiences. 27 b&w photos. Agent: Eileen Cope, Trident Media Group. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.