“This is what the girls felt, she thinks, those seized by pedlars in the lanes. Pinned down like moths, like squids on rocks. This is the fight women have always fought, their soft bodies turned to battlegrounds, slim bones crushed beneath the solid weight of men.”
Published in 2021, Circus Of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal is set in a coastal village in southern England in 1866 where Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea. But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Her father has sold her, promising Jasper Jupiter his very own leopard girl. It is the greatest betrayal of Nell’s life, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship with the other performers and Jasper’s gentle brother Toby, she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her.