Circus Of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal (Review)

Format: Hardback

Source: Birthday Gift

Publisher: Picador

Genres: Historical Fiction

Publication Date: 13th May 2021

Synopsis/Blurb (Taken from Goodreads):

“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.”

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My Thoughts & Review

Having enjoyed Elizabeth Macneal’s debut novel The Doll Factory, I couldn’t wait to read this one. I received the beautiful copy for my birthday from my parents in June and the front cover just kept calling me to pick it up and I finally picked it up in October 2021 and I wasn’t disappointed!!

Circus of Wonders tells the story of Nell, a young woman who has always been made to feel like an outsider by the people in her small village on the south coast of England. All because she has unusual birthmarks that cover her body. One day when Jasper Jupiter’s travelling circus arrives at her small village she learns that her father has sold her to the owner. But she comes around to the idea of living and working with the circus and that’s where the story begins.

This is a beautifully written novel with detailed descriptions that left me wanting more. My favourite were definitely the detailed descriptions of both the performers and the shows. The historical setting is also represented brilliantly. There  are moments in the book that some people may find uncomfortable to read, but I thought the author did a great job in handling them sensitively.

The characters were also very well written. In particular I loved the way Nells character was written. I found her character very interesting and loved the way we see her develop as the story unfolds. You really see her grow in confidence and she also learns to accept herself. I also enjoyed reading and watching Nell build friendships and relationships she builds with her new friends and circus performer. The side characters were also very well written and one thing I was worried about was not being able to keep track of them all as this book is set in a circus, and in the past this has put me off reading books set within a circus. But Macneal kept them minimal and I had no trouble keep track of them.

Although I absolutely loved this story the one thing that stopped me rating this 5 stars was the romance. I personally don’t understand why a majority of historical fiction need romance tropes included in the book but at the same time appreciate why authors do it, but for this book I thought it didn’t work as well. The romance felt forced and unbelievable and honestly didn’t really care for!! but hey that’s just my opinion.

All in all, a great read and look forward to reading more by this author!! If you’re a historical fiction fan then definitely worth giving this a go!!

My Rating


Have you read this book? What did you think? Leave a comment below and let’s have a chat.

Happy Reading!!!

You can also find me on: Twitter || Instagram ||Goodreads

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