Book Review – Orphans Of The Carnival by Carol Birch…

A life in the spotlight will keep anyone hiddenJulia Pastrana is the singing and dancing marvel from Mexico, heralded on tours across nineteenth-century Europe as much for her talent as for her rather unusual appearance. Yet few can see past the thick hair that covers her: she is both the fascinating toast of a Governor’s ball and the shunned, revolting, unnatural beast, to be hidden from children and pregnant women. 

But what is her wonderful and terrible link to Rose, collector of lost treasures in an attic room in modern-day south London? In this haunting tale of identity, love and independence, these two lives will connect in unforgettable ways.
I was given an ARC by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review…
I was surprised to realise that Julia was a real person. I did some research on the story after I finished the book.
The book hilights the abuse and exploitation that Miss Pastrana endured and it’s heartbreaking to read that human beings can do this to one another. Julia was seduced by the words of a man who told her she would make so much money by travelling to America and allowing him to manage her career.
In reality, her money was mainly sucked up by the various people who ran her life. Had it not been for the advice of some women she performed with, Julia would never have asked for a contract.
She had several “managers”, before she married Theo Lent. He claimed he married her for love but I think it’s fairly sure that he married her to protect his investment and his bank balance. Yet another abuser in a long line. It was never about Julia. It was all about what she could bring to other people.
Even though the main body of the book is fictional, the basic facts are the same. I thank the author for making me aware of Julia Pastrana’s incredible story.
A five out of five star read.
I am profoundly grateful to Netgalley and Canongate Books for my copy.

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