on 16 March 2012
Just finished reading this book that has been on my shelf for ages! Not the best book I have ever read, but it had an unusual setting and an interesting style and I did like it. Most of the story takes place in a circus situated in Lambeth, South London, at the end of the 19th century and there we find Nathan, a young man who has come from the USA to search for the mother who left him when he was 4 years old. He is working with the circus lions, Queen and Nero, and getting to know the other eccentric characters that inhabit this strange world - and possibly the strangest of these new friends is Lulu, a man who transforms himself into a stunning female trapeze artist every night. The story is told from several viewpoints, Nathan, Lulu, Nan the orange seller and also Queen, the lioness, who is astonishingly perceptive and articulate!
If I had been writing this book, I would have put Lulu the centre. He is a really complex character, far more interesting than the rather bland Nathan, and I felt he was far too extraordinary to be in a merely supporting role. However I didn't write the book and I think Ms Tobin has written a very readable and enjoyable story with a fascinating glimpse into the colourful, but seedy life in the Victorian circus.
on 4 April 2010
The cover proved to attract me more than anything else. Many times I picked it up in the library wondering why I hadn't taken it out, then put it down again after reading the blurb. After repeating this several times I thought I may as well read it!
Nathan has run away from a circus in America and has come to England to look for his mother. He gains employment with another circus and is ultimately promoted to working with the lions. The book skips between his narration and two of his colleagues, Nan and Lulu. Nan is dull compared to both Nathan and Lulu, so I think the book suffers a little from that as a consequence. Whenever I read Nan's narrative I was in a hurry to get back to one or other of Lulu or Nathan. Unfortunately Nan squeezes out Lulu with a relative increase and decrease of narrative space, much to the detriment of the book as a whole. Lulu was extremely interesting and fascinating and I feel the author utterly and completely wasted the character. She could have done so much more, and weeks later I still feel aggrieved about the poor handling of such a complex and fascinating person.
The book is okay. Nan's role increasing and usurping Lulu's I wasn't keen on. If Nan had been more interesting and had I cared about the character more perhaps my view would have been different.