THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
'Beautifully written' - The Times
'An absolute triumph' - Stacey Halls, author of The Familiars
'A glittering follow-up to The Doll Factory' - Guardian
'Entrancing. I couldn’t put it down' - Sara Collins, author of The Confessions of Frannie Langton
1866. In a coastal village in southern England, Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea.
But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Her father has sold her, promising Jasper Jupiter his very own leopard girl. It is the greatest betrayal of Nell's life, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship with the other performers and Jasper’s gentle brother Toby, she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her.
In London, newspapers describe Nell as the eighth wonder of the world. Figurines are cast in her image, and crowds rush to watch her soar through the air. But who gets to tell Nell’s story? What happens when her fame threatens to eclipse that of the showman who bought her? And as she falls in love with Toby, can he detach himself from his past and the terrible secret that binds him to his brother?
Moving from the pleasure gardens of Victorian London to the battle-scarred plains of the Crimea, Circus of Wonders is an astonishing story about power and ownership, fame and the threat of invisibility.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Here we meet one of the most memorable heroines we’ve encountered in a long time. Nell is a young violet picker from a coastal village in the south of England sold into a circus by her father in 1866. The distinctive birthmarks that tattoo her skin had left her an outsider in her community, but within her adopted one, she soon becomes a superstar. “Nellie Moon” is suddenly a must-see attraction, with newspapers describing her as the eighth wonder of the world. However, celebrity, as ever, comes at a price and soon Nell is struggling to salvage her relationships, mental state and sense of self. Elizabeth Macneal captures the Victorian passion for circuses with extraordinary flair, and tells Nell’s beguiling, courageous story with real tenderness.