The Palace of Curiosities – Rosie Garland

Published March 27, 2013 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?

A luminous and bewitching debut novel that is perfect for fans of Angela Carter. Set in Victorian London, it follows the fortunes of Eve, the Lion-Faced Girl and Abel, the Flayed Man. A magical realism delight. Before Eve is born, her mother goes to the circus. She buys a penny twist of coloured sugar and settles down to watch the heart-stopping main attraction: a lion, billed as a monster from the savage heart of Africa, forged in the heat of a merciless sun. Mama swears she hears the lion sigh, just before it leaps…and when Eve is born, the story goes, she didn’t cry – she meowed and licked her paws. When Abel is pulled from the stinking Thames, the mudlarks are sure he is long dead. As they search his pockets to divvy up the treasure, his eyes crack open and he coughs up a stream of black water. But how has he survived a week in that thick stew of human waste? Cast out by Victorian society, Eve and Abel find succour from an unlikely source. They will become The Lion Faced Girl and The Flayed Man, star performers in Professor Josiah Arroner’s Palace of Curiosities. And there begins a journey that will entwine their fates forever.

What did I think?:

I was lucky enough to be given an advanced readers copy of this amazing debut novel by the lovely people at Waterstones. Is it the new “Night Circus?” I think so. We are told the story through two voices, Eve the “Lion-Faced Girl,” and Abel who is pulled from the Thames days after drowning but curiously remains alive. It is essentially a love story with a bit of creepiness, a bit of kookiness and a lot of gore thrown in for good measure so if you have a bit of a weak stomach, this may not be the book for you. What I really loved about this novel was how we were introduced to the characters, and how they came to be in their present situation – i.e. performing in Eve’s husbands freak-show in front of an ignorant, baying and blood-thirsty London audience. As the tale and their affection for each other develops, the reader is drawn further in by Garland’s beautiful and emotive writing. I’m hoping this is the start of a series, as I think I’ve fallen in love with the characters, but if not, it’s still a damn good stand-alone novel.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


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