Monday, April 26, 2021

Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal

1866. In a coastal village in southern England, Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell's world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea.

But when Jasper Jupiter's Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Her father has sold her, promising Jasper Jupiter his very own leopard girl. It is the greatest betrayal of Nell's life, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship with the other performers and Jasper's gentle brother Toby, she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her.

In London, newspapers describe Nell as the eighth wonder of the world. Figurines are cast in her image, and crowds rush to watch her soar through the air. But who gets to tell Nell's story? What happens when her fame threatens to eclipse that of the showman who bought her? And as she falls in love with Toby, can he detach himself from his past and the terrible secret that binds him to his brother?

Moving from the pleasure gardens of Victorian London to the battle-scarred plains of the Crimea, Circus of Wonders is an astonishing story about power and ownership, fame and the threat of invisibility.

I received a copy of this from the publisher Pan Macmillan, and Netgalley in return for an honest review.

We read this as our Tsundoku Squad Books group April book, and we changed it up a little this month. Instead of splitting it into 4 parts and chatting each week, we decided to split it into 2 parts and chat every 2 weeks. To check out Em’s collective group review and her thoughts click this link

I loved this book, like really loved it. I love stories about the Circus (I wouldn’t go to an animal circus and have never been to one), and was pulled into the dreaminess and magic of it all.

The book is 2 different stories, one is sadness and the shame felt of being different, the sadness of being unseen and seen at the same time, then there’s the magic, love and friendship of the Circus and the performers. Nell grew up knowing she was different, and covered herself in long dresses so no one could see the birthmarks. But when her father sells her to a circus to be one of Jaspers ‘freaks’, everyone sees her. 

I loved Nell. Such a loving girl who wanted nothing more than to be seen as normal. I loved how at home she seemed amongst the others in the Circus, how she cared for them. And her love for Toby was so true. I didn’t like Jasper, he was an arse. But it made for a good baddie if that makes sense. The way he treats the performers as if they’re his pets, something he controls and owns was horrible. Yet in a way you feel for him deep down, you get a kind fo understanding of what went on back when he was in the war, and he turned out the way he did.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and if you like stories of the circus then this is definitely for you. I’d love to see a sequel and see where it goes!

Thank you again to Pan Macmillan and Netgalley for my advanced copy, no as always the author, Elizabeth Macneal.

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