Book review: The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway


The Floating Theatre by Martha Conway (first published in 2017 by Bonnier Zaffre)

With her skills as a seamstress and pianist, she finds a way to be useful aboard the Floating Theatre – sewing costumes for the travelling troupe who put on shows for people up and down the Ohio River.

Travelling between the free North and the Confederate South, where slavery is still rife, May tentatively starts to feel at home among her shipmates. 

Read more: 5 ways to get reluctant readers to pick up a book

An encounter with her cousin draws May into the secret world of runaway slaves, and she begins to help escapees find a new life in the North.

The menacing presence of slavers bent on catching the runaways and punishing those who help them looms over May’s life, as she also tries to cement her place in the theatre company. 

A flawed character whose motives are not all altruistic, May’s survival instinct and her desire to do the right thing create a tension that at times sits uncomfortably for the reader. 

Read more: Book review: Artemis by Andy Weir

The vividly imagined setting and characters carry the story and ultimately make for a thought-provoking read.

Purchase a copy of the book from

Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our hot stories and giveaways.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Do you think it's important to get married in this day and age?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, it's important in order to create a family unit and for companionship
23% - 929 votes
Not at all. Being single is far more liberating
9% - 372 votes
There is no general answer to this, it's each to their own
49% - 2036 votes
Yes, society still frowns on unmarried people, especially women
1% - 56 votes
It depends on whether you are able to find a compatible partner
18% - 728 votes