From the #1 internationally bestselling author of the “lush, evocative Gothic” (The New York TimesBook Review) The Doll Factory comes an atmospheric and spectacular novel where one woman’s life is transformed by the arrival of a Victorian circus of wonders...
Step up, step up! In 1860s England, circus mania is sweeping the nation. Crowds jostle for a glimpse of the lion-tamers, the dazzling trapeze artists and, most thrilling of all, the so-called “human wonders.”
When Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders pitches its tent in a poor coastal town, the life of one young girl changes forever. Sold to the ringmaster as a “leopard girl” because of the birthmarks that cover her body, Nell is utterly devastated. But as she grows close to the other performers, she finds herself enchanted by the glittering freedom of the circus, and by her own role as the Queen of the Moon and Stars.
Before long, Nell’s fame spreads across the world—and with it, a chance for Jasper Jupiter to grow his own name and fortune. But what happens when her fame begins to eclipse his own, when even Jasper’s loyal brother Toby becomes captivated by Nell? No longer the quiet flower-picker, Nell knows her own place in the world, and she will fight for it.
A gorgeously wrought exploration of celebrity, power and belonging, this is a historical novel unlike any other, with an unforgettable heroine at its heart.
Born in Scotland, Elizabeth Macneal is a writer and potter based in London. The Doll Factory, Elizabeth’s debut novel, was an international 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.
"Circus of Wonders is a soaring, tumbling, whip-cracking book. Elizabeth Macneal has brought an extraordinary group of characters together in these pages; the result is a glittering world, a story as moving as it is deeply entertaining."
– Daniel Mason, New York Times bestselling author of THE PIANO TUNER
"I loved THE DOLL FACTORYand I loved CIRCUS OF WONDERS just as much ... An intriguing and beautifully written love story as well as an exploration of the journey from rejection to adoration ... Elizabeth Macneal explores the nature of exploitation, pride and vanity through her vibrant and believable characters."
– Jenny Quintana, author of THE MISSING GIRL
"A glittering, begrimed tale of love and self-determination flush with richly detailed prose. Sumptuous, macabre, enthralling; a perfect slice of Victoriana."
– Jane Healey, author of THE ANIMALS AT LOCKWOOD MANOR
"Elizabeth Macneal's novel is spectacular - a book of wonders!"
– Alix Nathan, author of THE WARLOW EXPERIMENT
"A beautifully told and immersive look at a complex dance between exploitation and empowerment, and the question of what it really means to have control over your own life. I adored its characters, I was utterly gripped throughout, and I loved having my eyes opened to the troubling yet fascinating world of Victorian circuses."