Thursday, July 01, 2021

Top ten books about circuses and spectacle

Born in Scotland, Elizabeth Macneal is a writer and potter based in London. The Doll Factory, Macneal’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, available now in the UK and out in the US in early 2022, is her second novel.

At the Guardian Mcneal tagged ten top books about circuses and spectacle, including:
The Wonders: Lifting the Curtain on the Freak Show, Circus and Victorian Age by John Woolf

Many will be unaware of how vast and booming the so-called freak industry was in mid-Victorian Britain, and how extraordinary and tragic and magnificent the lives of many of its performers were. In this remarkable social history, John Woolf recounts the lives of its biggest stars – for example conjoined “Siamese” twins Chang and Eng Bunker; former slave Joice Heth who was exploited by the showman PT Barnum; and little person Charles Stratton (known as “General Tom Thumb”), who, in the opening chapter, meets Queen Victoria. While Woolf acknowledges the opportunities offered to those that society shunned, he does not shy away from denouncing the exploitative nature of the industry – a world that could both offer freedom and take it away.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue