Mini Book Review: The Palace Of Curiosities by Rosie Garland
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. (from Goodreads.com)
I was tempted by this book thinking it sounded similar to The Night Circus- which I adored. It isn't really anything like it though. Although I did quite enjoy it, I found it a little disturbing at times and the story a bit vague and unrounded for my taste.
Told in alternating chapters by Eve and Abel,the pace was steady and kept me interested. I liked Abel's chapters more, and overall found his story much more intriguing. As a character, he's fascinating I'd certainly love to know more about him.
This book is pretty disturbing at times, particularly scenes of self mutilation. I think I'm pretty strong stomached and even I winced once or twice. This probably isn't for the faint-hearted!
Rosie Garland certainly has a beautiful way with words. Her prose is rich and evocative. However, I found the book on the whole a little unsatisfactory. Vague and underdeveloped characters left me a bit frustrated.
Published by HarperCollins Uk 28th March (copy recieved from the Amazon Vine program)