ABOUT THE BOOK
From the author of the Sunday Times bestselling The Doll Factory
‘Beautifully written’ – The Times
‘An absolute triumph’ – Stacey Halls, author of The Familiars
‘A glittering follow-up to The Doll Factory‘ – Guardian
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.
BUY LINK: Circus of Wonders
I was fascinated with The Doll Factory by this author, but she has exceeded my expectations tenfold with this book. Set in Queen Victoria’s era, with the Crimean war still fresh in the country’s minds, times were very different from today. The war had ended ten years ago, and in that time, Jasper Jupiter, a veteran, had created his Circus of Wonders. The Circus Wonders consisted of the members of society, that had been shunned and hidden away, but Jasper was willing to steal, buy and entice the people that society had not wanted living amongst them, but were happy enough to pay to go and see them in the Circus of Wonders.
Nell’s body was covered in birthmarks, which gave her an unusual look. Her father was keen to sell her to Jasper. He would make her the star of his show. He treated his performers well and paid them handsomely, but they still belonged to him. Jasper had a brother who worked for him called Toby, a gentle man and photographer from the war. Nell would make an impact on the brothers and the lives of the people in the circus.
What an amazing story this book is. From the very first page, I felt connected to Nell. She is fiery and strong-willed, but it was not long before she knows that there is good money to be made. She embraces who she is and makes it work for her. Toby was another favourite character of the story for me. He had a warmth and caring about him that made me feel like if he was my friend, that it would be for life.
The descriptions of the circus and performers being so vivid triggered my memories of the smells and buzz that comes with it. The anticipation and build up to the top billing act, and the heart in your mouth moments that could be spectacular or disastrous and deadly if not done right.
The story takes a much darker turn, and it made me edgy about what secrets were to come to light, and how vulnerable the performers were. I could not help but be involved with how the lives of so many rested on one man. The story built, and as it did hairs on my arms and the back of my neck rose to the occasion.
I loved how I got to know this circus family, who had banded together and how relationships, were tested beyond sanity. There is a great sadness to how people could be exploited and poked and prodded for being born different. Bought and sold like stock to the highest bidder.
What an unsettling story of memorable people, not characters.
I wish to thank Net Galley and the publisher for an e-copy of this book, with I loved and reviewed honestly.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elizabeth Macneal was born in Scotland and now lives in East London. She is a writer and potter and works from a small studio at the bottom of her garden. The Doll Factory, Elizabeth’s debut novel, was a Sunday Times bestseller, has been translated into twenty-nine languages and has been optioned for a major television series. It won the Caledonia Novel Award 2018. Circus of Wonders is her second novel.