Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal

I ADORED reading The Doll Factory and was eager to read Macneal’s latest novel – Circus of Wonders. WOW. It’s a truly wonderful story that I devoured.

Nell has been sold to Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders by her own father. Can you imagine?! What a horrible man. Jokes on him though, as Nell turns the situation around so that she’s thriving in a circus environment and can finally be herself. Nell’s birthmarks had always been a talking point for the locals in her village, and never in a positive way, but now with her stage name and set, people stare at her in wonder.

As Nell’s rise to fame escalates, Jasper finds himself struggling with his thoughts. Why is Nell getting all the praise and not him, after all he ‘created’ her – her backstory, her set and gave her the courage and comforts to enjoy life. Jasper wants to be the centre of attention again but how?

Jasper’s brother; Toby, works alongside him to move the circus from town to town and set up. Toby has always been in his brother’s shadow but it doesn’t seem to bother him… or does it? Toby has caught Nell’s eye, but Toby knows what his brother would think of it. What is more important – brotherly love or romantic love?

As the pages turn and you try to figure out the answers to these questions, you are immersed in circus life and begin to appreciate the highs and lows of such a challenging business. You can tell how much research Macneal had done surrounding circuses in the Victorian times because the detail within this tale is impeccable and the way she manages to portray each act’s individual thoughts towards their situation is remarkable. The women within this story are strong and speak their minds – I loved the banter between Stella and Peggy.

Macneal is a natural storyteller; her stories are exciting, purposeful and leave you entranced throughout. Circus of Wonders is out now in hardback, trade paperback if you are here in the UAE like me and eBook versions from Picador.

Until next time, Chloé x


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