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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A slow start, but stay with it
This tale of 2 `curiosities' in a Victorian freak show is part historical romance, part surreal fantasy, part Victorian extravaganza. A tale of Eve, The Lion Faced Girl and Abel, The Flayed Man, a man who cannot die. Eve's tale left me rather cold in the beginning; I couldn't seem to engage with her. My interest lifted when the mysterious, amnesiac Abel entered the tale...
Published 19 months ago by marcoscu

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A curious love story
"The Palace of Curiosities" is set in a Victorian sideshow and centres on two of the performers. Eve, "The Lion Faced Girl" was whisked away from her indifferent mother by the proprietor under the pretense of love and seems to have accepted her loveless marriage. Abel is "The Flayed Man" who magically heals when he is cut, but is tormented by fleeting memories of his...
Published 13 months ago by J. Dawson


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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A slow start, but stay with it, 28 Feb 2013
By 
marcoscu "marcoscu" (Chorley,UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Palace of Curiosities (Hardcover)
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This tale of 2 `curiosities' in a Victorian freak show is part historical romance, part surreal fantasy, part Victorian extravaganza. A tale of Eve, The Lion Faced Girl and Abel, The Flayed Man, a man who cannot die. Eve's tale left me rather cold in the beginning; I couldn't seem to engage with her. My interest lifted when the mysterious, amnesiac Abel entered the tale. But when the two get together, as members of Josiah Arroner's Palace of Curiosities, the story became absolutely gripping, and with such wonderful literary writing. Rosie Garland captures the unique and harsh world of the Victorian freak show so completely - for the last three days, I've been completely absorbed in Eve and Abel's strange, harsh world - and here, I do feel a warning is needed. There is some terrible animal cruelty, and appalling brutality to humans, too. It doesn't dominate the book, but it is given in full and dreadful detail. It was too much for me, I was skipping through whole paragraphs at times. That aside, this is a unique and enthralling book that I highly recommend.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating!, 16 April 2013
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What an captivating read! I was hooked from the start. A wonderful mix of magical enchantment and macabre. I can't wait to read more from Rosie Garland in the future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A quick dip into a strange and seductive world, 25 Mar 2013
By 
Richard Hammond (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Palace of Curiosities (Hardcover)
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Beautifully written, with an immediately captivating setting and idea - it follows Eve, a girl born covered in hair, as she marries a showman and ends up in a freak show. Her story is intertwined in alternate chapters with that of Abel, a man who seems to be able to heal from any wound, and ends up in the same show, recovering from knife cuts on stage. This is a magical realism, characters with fantastic secrets that they don't themselves understand.

Eve and Abel are vivid characters, and their strangeness is believable - for both it is the core of their character.

There are some threads of the story that I wanted to hear more about - characters who have enticing hidden stories hinted at that are never fully explored. While Eve and Abel's separate stories are individually engrossing, the relationship between the two, when it happens, feels rather rushed. This is partly because it is overshadowed by their respective relationships with other characters, which are much more strongly drawn - Abel and his friend Alfred, Eve and the Fat Lady Lizzie (who could fill a novel of her own).

But this is a memorable and enjoyable book, a quick dip into a strange and seductive world.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful prose but frustrated with unanswered questions!, 15 May 2013
By 
Sarah Durston (London) - See all my reviews
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The Palace of Curiosities is the story of Eve, a woman whose body and face is covered in hair, and of Abel, a man who has difficultly remembering his past and is seemingly unable to be harmed. Both Due to a number of events that take place in the initial stages of the book, Eve and Abel end up being displayed in a Victorian Freak Show. The attitudes they encounter are often harsh and brutal but they are drawn to each other and are able to find some comfort from their friendship.

This book is beautifully written, even the parts which depict very graphic and brutal violence have poignancy about them and I would happily read the book again. The only frustration for me was that there was so much more I wanted to know about these wonderful characters. I would have loved to have learned more about Abel's background and about where the characters went next. It's a rare thing for me to say but I actually wish this book was about 200 pages longer! Nevertheless, I would still recommend it; the prose is to be savoured!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A curious love story, 14 Aug 2013
By 
J. Dawson (Edinburgh, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Palace of Curiosities (Hardcover)
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"The Palace of Curiosities" is set in a Victorian sideshow and centres on two of the performers. Eve, "The Lion Faced Girl" was whisked away from her indifferent mother by the proprietor under the pretense of love and seems to have accepted her loveless marriage. Abel is "The Flayed Man" who magically heals when he is cut, but is tormented by fleeting memories of his mysterious past and his physical abnormality.
Eve and Abel find in each other kindred spirits and a bond that may offer a chance at escape or destroy them.

This is a gripping read and the love story at its heart is very tender. Eve is a wonderfully strong heroine and Abel is tragic as the tormented hero, and you will find yourself rooting for them to escape from their enslavement and find a happier future. The issues raised make it a bit more involving than your average novel, but there may not be enough depth to elevate it to a truly memorable read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant debut full of powerful metaphor, 12 Aug 2013
By 
C. O'Brien (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Palace of Curiosities (Hardcover)
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On the surface of it, this is a piece of magic realism set in the world of the Victorian freak show. Abel, an amnesiac slaughterhouse worker, falls in with a troupe of oddities including Eve, a helpless clairvoyant whose face and body are covered with golden fur. Abel appears to be immortal: if he cuts himself he heals almost instantly, and he becomes the show's leading attraction, the Flayed Man.

Go a little deeper and Abel's predicament becomes a metaphor for artistic performance - every night the artist must cut deeper, display more of himself, mutilate himself in a ritual rehearsal of a death which never comes. Cut off from his own memories and secrets, his years of past lives, Abel only finds fulfillment through laying himself open. Meanwhile, Eve is cursed with an unblinking vision she can't exclude; everyone she touches yields up their history to her.

Along the way, Rosie Garland creats a parade of unforgettable monsters; Lizzie, the vast, all-encompassing fat lady whose embrace brings oblivion; Arroner, the miserly capitalist who enslaves those whose magic is forever outside his understanding; Donkey-Skin, Eve's feral and murderous imaginary friend. The prose is wonderful; redolent of Angela Carter in its lush imagery and musical cadences as well as its refusal to shy away from darkness and violence. In terms of plot devices, there's a little of Christopher Nolan's film "Memento" and Russell T. Davies' TV series "Torchwood" in there, too.

A bewitching, beautiful and often harrowing debut from a very talented new writer.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange Little World, 20 Feb 2013
By 
M. J. Saxton (Dewsbury, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Palace of Curiosities (Hardcover)
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A slightly surreal novel, this, and quite fascinating. It is a kind of inside look at the world of Victorian freak shows and yet more.

Eve was born covered in fur, the supposed result of her mother's visit to see a lion tamer who was mauled in front of her. She is kept hidden at home until a suitor arrives to ask for her hand, but is he the prince she has dreamed of?

Abel is dredged from the mud of the Thames and appeared to rise from the dead. His problem is that he cannot die and with each morning his memory disappears and has to be reawakened.

In the midst of the novel the two become part of the same company of "curiosities" at the house of Mr Arroner, Eve's husband. Of course, it is nothing more than a freak show, with a fat lady, tattoed man and the India Rubber boy.

All these people find that they have special qualities, but those of Eve and Abel tie them closer when she realises that she can read his past life through the touch of his hand. For him it is the chance he has longed for to find out who and what he really is.

Ms Garland draws you into the seedy world of the fringes of Victorian London as she weaves this enthralling narrative of two lives moving inexorably toward their goal. The characters are earthy and real, but the imagery she paints around them dips the reader into kaleidoscopic mix of past and present.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like Green & Black's Chocolate with Sea Salt this is for you, 2 Feb 2013
By 
B. Innes "Mtoto" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Palace of Curiosities (Hardcover)
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Was drawn to this by the Angela Carter comparison. I found it rather different but very definitely worth reading. So many first novels are so bland and it is too easy to read in the same groove and get very blasé.

Rose Garland has an unique voice - if you are going to make comparisons this is rather more like Angela Carter's naughty younger sister. Oh and throw in a touch of Philip Pullman and William Blake as well for the angel touches and then a touch of Naomi Novik for historical fantasy.

Took about 40 pages to really get into this and then it was deeply engrossing.

Abel's story in particular unfurls with great delicacy and I felt him the more sympathetic character.

The characterisation of Eve was rather less beguiling.

Will definitely read her next novel and have already identified two friends who will be getting this for their birthday. Certainly time they read outside their comfort zone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars From the moment you spy the shiny coat of this ..., 6 July 2014
From the moment you spy the shiny coat of this novel you realise this is no ordinary book. And neither would you expect it
to be from the mistress of dark burlesque. From page one you are drawn helplessly into the whirlpool of Victorian curiosities.
Each chapter is an exotic appetizer and you find yourself relishing even the distasteful bites.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic story of queerness, acceptance and love!, 26 Jun 2014
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I've literally recommended this book to anyone who will listen. A love story, but also a story of otherness, and acceptance. Set in the 1800s, and charting the stories of two characters, both on journeys of self-discovery. Definitely one of my favourites.
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The Palace of Curiosities
The Palace of Curiosities by Rosie Garland (Hardcover - 28 Mar 2013)
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