So as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m still not really in the headspace for books where I don’t know how they’re going to end. This of course is the main reason why I’ve mostly been reading romance and mystery for the duration of the pandemic – in the midst of all the global uncertainty, I need to know that it’s going to be ok at the end. This doesn’t seem to have got through to the part of my brain clicking request on NetGalley though, which is a bit of an issue to be honest. But I did manage to read this – and enjoy it – so here’s a change from the recent fiction picks and a bit of historical fiction.
In Circus of Wonders we meet Nell. She’s always been different, because of the birthmarks that cover her skin. When Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders comes to her coastal village, she is kidnapped after her father sells her. Ripped away from her beloved brother and the seaside, at first Nell tries to escape. But soon she discovers the community of performers and meets Jasper’s younger brother Toby. Toby and Jasper were in Crimea together and the show is what they have always planned together, even before they were on the battlefield. But when the show gets to London, Nell is its star, but can Jasper cope with his “leopard girl” eclipsing him?
This is a really atmospheric book – mixing the world of Victorian circus performers and the horror of war, as well as looking at identity, difference and fame. I worry that this makes Circus of Wonders sound very worthy, but it’s actually a real page Turner as well as being very clever. And give the renewed interest in the period and the circus after The Greatest Showman it is perhaps and opportune time for something like this. Really very readable. I read Elizabeth Macneal’s first book, The Doll Factory on my birthday holiday at the start of last year* and I found it creepy and atmospheric but only really liked one strand of the story and wanted a more definite resolution. This one, I like Toby and Nell’s story and it does have a very definite ending so that’s a definite win here. If you’re after for something to read in the sun, this would be a good choice.
My copy of Circus of Wonders came from NetGalley, but it’s out now in hardback as well as Kindle and Kobo. I would expect the physical copies to be front and centre in the book shops – because it’s in the hardback top 10 at the moment. Side note: I had read two books in each of the fiction top tens in the Sunday Times this week – unfortunately this was slightly undermined by the fact that one of the books in each list was the same book – The Thursday Murder Club – which is in both hardback and paperback lists! For the completists, the other book that I had read in the paperback list is the wonderful The Vanishing Half. But at any rate, if you haven’t read the either the Richard Osman or the Brit Bennett (which are doing very different things), they’re now in paperback – ideal for your sunlounger.
*It seems like a lifetime ago, but that trip which seemed so extravagant at the time- to pay for sunshine in January – now seems like the smartest idea we ever have, as it was our only proper holiday last year and it was a proper sunshiney one.