The Palace of Curiosities
By Rosie Garland
Published by Harpercollins
Available: Hardback and ebook
When the chance came up on Twitter to read the winning entry for the Mslexia Novel competition I was there waving my hand for a proof copy. I wanted to see what sort of book won the competition as I had also entered with my now defunct novel. I can see why The Palace of Curiosities because it is a brilliant and electrifying book.
The Palace of Curiosities tells the story of Eve, 'The Lion Faced Girl' and the mysterious Abel 'The Flayed Man' who are both estranged from normal society and perform for a Victorian sideshow called 'The Palace of Curiosities.'
The Palace of Curiosities is full of rich prose that grips and guides the reader through Eve's and Abel's struggle for self discovery, escape and finding out what it means to be human and accepted in society. The reader follows the curious journeys of both characters on how they end up performing. Eve is born covered in fur - her mother wants her to shave away the shame. Until a gentleman, Josiah Arroner arrives, asking for Eve's hand in marriage. Love isn't Arroner's first thought. He wants a star attraction for his Victorian sideshow.
Abel is pulled from the murky waters of the river Thames. Every morning he wakes up from his vivid dreams but can not remember the previous day's events. He stumbles from working in a slaughterhouse to mending watches to becoming the biggest attraction at Arroner's sideshow. The lives of both of the characters intertwine in a touching love story.
Garland weaves together magic realism with gritty realism. The descriptions are beautiful and strange.
She is able evoke the dirty streets of London along with the glamour of performing. At times the descriptions of a slaughter house and of self mutilation are very realist. You have been warned!
Readers of twisted fairy tales and fans of Angela Carter will enjoy The Palace of Curiosities. Be prepared to not be able to put the book down once you have started reading!
The Palace of Curiosities is now available from your favourite online or offline book retailer.
This book was kindly sent to me by the Publisher.