Book Review. Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth MacNeil.

The Doll Factory, Elizabeth MacNeil’s debut, was one of the best books I have ever read, so unrealistic expectations for book 2, Circus of Wonders, abound.

Frankenstein and his ‘monster’ and Icarus were two oft quoted stories in Circus of Wonders, and they were obviously two inspirations for the story. The complicated relationship between two brothers was the main story, more than that of Nell’s. Nell was the young girl, who was sold to the Circus by her father, to be a part of a ‘freak show’ because she has birth marks. Elizabeth MacNeil has clearly put a huge amount of research into this story and I liked that she peppered the story with the names of real people that would have been part of popular culture in the Victorian Era of which Circus of Wonders is set. I think for me the story didn’t delve very far into the lives of the performers. It was more about the man who owns the circus, Jasper, and the lengths he will go to attain fame and fortune. Even to financial ruin. In the author’s note, Elizabeth MacNeil writes about this part of history where people would pay to gawp at those who were noticeably different, for entertainment, and how few first hand accounts there are from people who performed in these shows. ‘it is impossible to know how they felt about their new careers. Especially considering how limited their options will have been due to a deeply prejudiced society,’ I thought this was very important to point out.

Circus of Wonders was well written but felt very ordinary.

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