Book Review by Julaine Hall
In essence, this book is an in-depth look at many ancient practices of juggling, how society saw jugglers, and other interesting cultural tid-bits! One thing that makes this book truly astounding is something Mr. Wall mentioned towards the beginning of his book, “As with dance, so with juggling—the moment that the performer finishes the routine, their act ceases to exist beyond the memory of the audience. There is no permanent record of what transpired, so studying the ancient roots of juggling is fraught with difficulty.” His works cited section has over 20 pages of sources! Much like an act jam packed with difficult skills, this book is jam packed with interesting fact after interesting fact and must’ve took countless hours of preparation and hard work before it was ready to put in front of the audience. Countries and civilizations the book focuses on include; Ancient Egypt, Israel & Babylon, India, Turkey, China, Japan, Russia, The British Isles, Spain, The South Pacific, Mexico, the Vikings, and Indigenous and Nomadic Cultures. Countries appear as chapters and each chapter covers a new set of topics. I found much enlightening information such as, juggling appears to have been a mostly female dominated activity in ancient Egypt, the South Pacific, and other areas. Also, William the Conquerer established a position called Royal Juggler which lasted around 500 years! It is quite interesting to look back at each juggling culture and compare it to our own. I would recommend this book to anyone wishing for some background information on the craft of juggling and circus arts in general (because as I learned in the book, the word, “juggle,” defines a broad range of definitions)! Thom Wall’s “Juggling- From Antiquity to the Middle Ages” is not only an enjoyable and informative book, it is also quite an impressive one! I am astounded at Mr. Wall’s depth of research and love for the subject.