280 pages
ISBN 0-676-97461-9
DDC C813'.6




Reviewed by Chris Knight

Chris Knight is the senior movie reviewer at the National Post.


Steven Galloway’s second novel (after Finnie Walsh) manages to be
sweeping in scope without seeming to try too hard.

It opens with the death of Salvo Ursari, a Rom (gypsy) wire walker who
in 1974 is making his way between the then-new twin towers of New
York’s World Trade Center. It’s his final walk, he has told himself,
and it proves to be just that when the wire bucks and Salvo plummets.
But the story then recedes to his childhood and follows a life of
persecution and peculiar talents, from post–World War I Hungary to a
mid-century Ringling Bros.–style circus in America.

Galloway has a gift for scene-setting, and can write an action
sequence—a circus stunt, a fire—that will take your breath away. He
is not as adept with emotions, and some key moments, such as Salvo and
his future wife, Anna, falling in love, play out as two-dimensional. But
the story of the Ursari family of wire walkers is compelling, tragic,
and just believable enough that you may wonder if they or the fictional
Fisher-Fielding circus company in fact existed.

Ascension is a page-turner because of rather than in spite of its
flashback style—how does a penniless gypsy boy become an American
circus star?


Galloway, Steven., “Ascension,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 20, 2024,