Circus of Wonders

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Title: Circus of Wonders

Writer: Elizabeth Macneal

Publishing House: Pan Macmillan

Date of Publication: May 13th 2021

Rating: 5 stars

‘’Have a long look, why don’t you?’’

Nell is unique, graced with a special kind of beauty. But the others cannot understand, they think she is an abomination, a cursed creature, lower than the low. When a circus comes to town, her father sees an opportunity to rid himself of a burden and sells her to Jasper, the man who aspires to be the greatest showman in the country. For Nell, this heinous ct actually opens the door to a new world. She finds a new family and freedom. But more often than not, the one who claims to have set us free is our greatest captor.

‘’In this age of wonder, epiphanies are born in the ecstasies of dreams and fevers.’’

Following the beautiful The Doll Factory, Elizabeth Macneal excels again, creating a brilliant story in which History is seamlessly married to the Strange and the Oneiric. A tale where Light and Shadow coexist, set in the era of frenzy over circuses, curiosities and spiritualism, the age of doubt and progress. London is brilliantly seen in all its glory and filth. Wealth and poverty. The nobility parading its fat purse and the children dying in the streets, sick and emaciated, the ‘’all-conquering’’ Victoria with her enormous petticoats and the young mothers and prostitutes wasting away, exploited and abused.

As Nell soars in the sky, Toby becomes a wonder, Pearl stands witness to the loss of innocence, Jasper fights with himself and memories of the Crimean War resurface, brutal and unforgiving. The demons of the past start dancing, opening the wounds that cannot be healed. The scenes that will remain in your memory are many, the writing is mesmerizing, the characterization is excellent. From our wonderful, wonderful Nell to the shadow of Dash, and I was happy to see a writer that didn’t glorify Victoria and her cruel behaviour.

Life is made entirely out of our own choices, no matter the circumstances or the odds that may be against us. We decide, we act. The rest are empty excuses. Nell chooses and the closure is superb. Elizabeth Macneal’s novel is a literary wonder, taking place in the Circus of Life. This IS Historical Fiction.

‘’We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little


Is rounded with a sleep.’’

           William Shakespeare, The Tempest (Act 4, Scene 1)

Many thanks to Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.