The Circus of Ghosts – Barbara Ewing

Due for UK release on 28th July, this is Barbara Ewing’s eighth novel but it’s my first encounter with this extremely talented novelist.   The Circus of Ghosts is a sequel to The Mesmerist (published in 2007) but can also be read as a stand-alone novel in which we leave behind Victorian London for the challenges of the New World. 

Cordelia Preston is the headline act of Silas P Swift’s circus, still performing acts of mesmerism although seances and clairvoyance are becoming de rigueur.  Her daughter, Gwenlliam, is also part of the circus troupe, and they have surrounded themselves with an array of wild and wonderful characters who act as a sort of extended family.   Their story is a veritable smorgasbord of American life in the 1840s, including such treats as the Californian Gold Rush, the Gangs of New York, the development of the daguerrotype, racial tensions and the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace – all packed into 416 pages!

With so much going on, there is little room for fleshing out all of the characters but I was so focussed on the story, the spectacle, the show that I didn’t really mind.  Yes, it’s a bit OTT at times (tis the circus after all) and yes, there are a quite a few coincidences but it’s a fabulous romp across America, a real page-turner through which you will get both the smell of the greasepaint and the whiff of the crowd, most of whom seem intent on redecorating the interior of the Big Top with their tobacco spit…

Highly recommended for fans of entertaining historical fiction.

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  1. Ellie says:

    I definitely like the sound of this, the world of the circus in its heyday is fascinating. I’ll probably have to read The Mesmerist first, as I like to start from the beginning.

  2. Treez says:

    Hope you like it, Ellie. I am fascinated by circus life too, probably why I enjoyed Water for Elephants so much.

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