In Victorian London, a girl named Eve is born covered in hair, a coat she comes to think of as her fur Unloved by her mother and mocked by strangers, she is swept off her feet by the avaricious Josiah Arroner, who fills her with hopes of romance but leaves her trapped in a loveless and sexless marriage Instead, he cruelly parades her as the Lion Faced Girl , the central attraction of his Unique and Genuine Anatomical Marvels , a variety performance with the air of a freakshow Meanwhile, elsewhere in London, a man who should be dead is pulled out of the mud of the Thames This is Abel, who has few clear memories of his past, but is seemingly unable to suffer injury, illness or death His rescuer happens to be another of Arroner s performers, a coincidence which leads to a fateful meeting between Eve and Abel.Inevitably compared to Angela Carter obviously a major influence on Garland s prose style here and Sarah Waters, this is an engaging adventure slash romance that will appeal to fans of both historical fiction and magical realism Since the antagonist, Arroner, is so despicable, it s easy to root for Eve and Abel, who take turns narrating the story and Abel s mysterious history adds an extra layer of intrigue to the plot I was captivated early on by Eve s inner struggle over whether to reject or embrace her condition the voice in favour of this is represented by an imaginary friend she dubs Donkey Skin , and Abel s uneasy relationship with his friend Alfred, which he fails to perceive correctly due to his straightforwardness and naivety I enjoyed The Palace of Curiosities it s a fast and easy read but I felt that, despite all its luscious, vivid description and eccentric characters, there was a certain emptiness at the heart of it I love books that present a simple narrative which reveals itself to have hidden depths and layers, and this was the opposite once you strip away the florid language, it s a very uncomplicated story For me, there was never a true sense of drama it was obvious to the reader if not Eve that Arroner was bad from his first appearance, and I never believed there would be any real barriers to the protagonists eventual happiness Overall, a pleasant and diverting read but too lacking in tension to be particularly memorable. It was the cover that captured my attention I admit it And then I thought I was picking up a book with a story on the lines of Erin Morgenstern The Night Circus which I truly liked Liked a lot I guess it is a mistake to choose a book by its cover, because it may not live to our expectations Or to the beauty of the cover.This means that, as much as I liked the cover of this The Palace of Curiosities, I couldn t find any delight in the story within.The two narrators are Eve and Abel and they tell the story alternately Eve tells her in past tense except for the first chapter, which is told in present tense, despite the fact that it is about an event that took place before Eve was born Abel always uses the present tense.Eve was born with fur covering her body like a lion and we never fully understand why and Abel is a man who cannot die Rare and different as they are, both become part of Josiah Arroner s freak show, along with other people who display weird features Arroner is a cruel and greedy man, who does not care about the people who make up his show, only trying to make out as much profit as possible from them.While we immediately see what is wrong with Eve, Abel s condition is not readily revealed The first simptom we see is the fact that everytime he wakes up in the morning, he has to be reminded of who he is and what he does Abel forgets his past with remarkable easiness Slowly we start to realise he displays other features, like an incredible capacity to heal himself But it takes a while for the realisation that the man doesn t die to hit.I understand these facts arethan enough to be appealing to anybody and to make a great and fantastic story But I didn t like it, I could not find it appealing There were moments I didn t even want to open the book and resume my reading I wanted to like the book, but I couldn t.And why oh why Well, to begin with, I though the beginning of the story was very confusing It starts with Eve telling us in present tense of a night when her mother, already pregnant with her, goes to a circus with a man called Bert Now, who this Bert is, we never find out I suppose he is Eve s father, but he could also be Eve s mother s pimp, or something like that Because it is never clear But Eve s mother is clearly in love with the guy, so I don t really know At the circus, something involving a lion happens I don t want to spoil the surprise for whoever might want to read the book, and anyway I m not sure I would be able to explain , and I finished that first chapter without understand what had happened, a feeling I usually don t like in books The only thing that seemed clear to me was that the lion incident might have something to do with Eve being born such a furry and cat like person But I am not sure Then we have Abel not remembering a bit of who he is and acting weird Abel acted like a dumb person for most of the book He couldn t remember who he was, which I can understand it must be afflicting, but it was not that which really got on my nerves regarding Abel he was too good, too submissive Abel, in his confusion and amnesia, was everybody s favourite doormat People laughed at him, called him nasty names, and he still kept his cool Always I didn t mind to have a character with the gift or curse of immortality What bothered me was his character, the way he behaves He kept saying he didn t mind the abuses for me, that made Abel very unlikely as a character Eve is also a bit of a doormat, especially after joining Arroner s freak show She becomes known as the Lion Faced Woman, but behaves like a little kitten She submites completely to Arroner s wishes, not quite seeing what was beneath.So, characterisation was poor, in my opinion Both main characters are weak And Abel s sexuality is something I found most puzzling.Another thing that didn t work for me was the amount of gruesome scenes Not only is Abel constantly cutting himself and exposing everything a person has under the skin yes, everything is described in detail , his job before Arroner s is at a slaughter house butchering animals And the description of the job Oh dear Yes, we get to know very well what is done at a slaughter house There is always a limit regarding gruesomeness, and mine was reading about this which I didn t want to while having breakfast There I was, enjoying my morning meal, the first of the day Reading about a man killing a bullock in a very bloody way I won t go into details, because it was desgusting, but Abel s second chapter is about his work as a slaughter man, and I can only wish somebody had warned my about this I guess this was the first time my reading while eating habit thwarted me In a most horrible way.Before reading this, I was feeling confused Then I got nauseated and really started wondering about having made a mistake by having bought The Palace of Curiosities But I was obviously hoping the rest of the story would make up for my not being able to enjoy breakfast as I wished, so I kept reading Some improvement must be ahead, I hoped.It is a fact that I m wrong a lot of times, and the story didn t improve I didn t like Abel and Eve because of their characters, I didn t care for the other curiosities Arroner was despicable and I couldn t like the guy he deserved all the punches , but that was expected of him I couldn t care about their performances, of which there is only one in the whole book, and which I found confusing.I suppose confusion is a fitting word for this book What was the purpose To show how weird, different people, freaks, were treated in the Victorian society of London That doesn t happen, not to a wide extent Do the characters rebel against discrimination No, not really, not in a great way Is this a love story between misfits Sort of, but love between Eve and Abel comes about in a most abrupt way, that has to be with them being the only ones to see each other beyond their weirdness Something like that This is not even a book about how the characters came into the world the way they did Although we get to know stuff about Abel s past, we are never told how was that possible, not even some hints The same goes to Eve So I felt that there was a lot left hanging in the air.Also, Eve s mother quite puzzled me in the way she behaves towards her daughter In the first chapter she seems to know what her child will be like and does not seem to mind But while Eve is growing up, the woman she lives with is completely ashamed to have a hairy daughter It was really strange, puzzling even So my assumption to explain such behaviour was that Eve was swapped after birth, and the woman she calls mother is not her true mother There may be another explanation, but, once , we are never told about why Eve s mother behaves like that.Bert, the guy at the beginning, never shows up again, and Eve never mentions her father She doesn t even question who he might have been.Are there anythings I can say I didn t like about this book Maybe, but I m not remembering which are they I regret having purchased this, thinking it could be another The Night Circus There is no magic in this book, so why did I think there could be It was the cover, that s the only explanation And my desire to read a bit of fantasy with some freakishness.What a failure What a disappointment I wished I could have enjoyed this story Trust me, I wished But I couldn t.1.5 stars rounded up to 2, because this had potential And it wasn t as bad as a certain book concerning a 100 year old dude who decides to leave his nursing house and engages in utter nonsense The Palace of Curiosities is a tad better than that Only a tad. Magical realism is always a strange genre you don t always know what you re going to get In The Palace of Curiosities, a novel about performers in a Victorian freak show, I think I got a littlethan I wanted Garland offers readers a potentially charming romance between two misfits, told in rich, evocative prose but also manages to be unexpectedly gruesome I finished the novel feeling that I d just read a very beautiful book that nevertheless unsettled me.In chapters that alternate perspective, Rosie Garland shows readers two freaks Eve, the woman who is covered in fur like a lion, and Abel, the man who cannot die After mishaps and general miserableness, both find themselves as attractions in a popular freak show Of course, neither Eve nor Abel them the circus act particularly enjoyable either, and so they eventually make plans for their escape, to live anormal life.Yet while I think we could certainly think of The Palace of Curiosities as a romantic novel, I also feel like the author was trying to sayThe way Eve feels trapped in her role of submissive wife, for instance, could be a commentary on historical sexism, or it could just be a convenient plot device I m not a reader who always searches for deeper meaning in my books or believes that symbolism is everywhere, but I can t help but wonder if Garland didn t have some broader message in mind Is this just a book about to strange people find each other, or is it something else I m not sure, and that uncertainty affects how I think about this book.There is also the issue of gore, which I mentioned previously Prior to his arrival at the freak show, Abel works as a slaughterer for a meat plant The entire process is described In excruciating detail How the beeves are killed apparently beeves is the plural of beef , how their blood is drained, how they re gutted, how they re skinned, on and on and on While I most definitely appreciate that realism, and while I thought Garland s imagery was good surely such explicit gore had a purpose And, of course, there sSince Abel is a man who cannot die, he must prove his deathlessness by cutting himself His act is basically to cut himself with knives over and over again while the audience watches his body magically heal This process is, again, described in lengthy detail Even after he escapes the freak show with Eve, Abel doesn t stop cutting himself See, in order for him to maintain an erection, Abel must cut himself So the entire time the two of them are having sex, he s knifing himself Er that s some erotic imagery I could do without, thank you very much.Unsettled as I was by the blood and detailed violence in The Palace of Curiosities, I thought Garland was able to create a very evocative, magic tinged look at Victorian London and the kinds of abnormal entertainments the common man sought We see a seedy side of life, falsely elegant, but full of cons and threats and ambition That was very well done, especially when set against Abel and Eve, two people who want only to be happy in a manner of their own choosing.The Palace of Curiosities isn t your typical circus romance Rosie Garland s prose is lush and hints at darker things, while telling a story that unsettles the reader as much as it engrosses This novel is certainly well written, but perhaps it lacks a particular something that would bring everything together But even so, it s a worthwhile book. 2.5 Stars Wow I really disliked this book which is such a shame because it had such potential The two main characters, Eve and Abel, were just so Well Boring Abel was interesting during the first part of the book but Eve was boring all the way through The story was predictable and the entire book just felt like it fell flat The one thing it had going for it was that the writing was quite lyrical and I enjoyed how unnerving and weird some of the book was, but I just couldn t get over how boring the plot and the characters were. This is a promising debut novel which will appeal to fans of quirky fiction peppered with a dash of magical realism Alternate chapters tell the stories of Abel, the Flayed Man and Eve, the Lion Faced Girl whose lives intertwine when they both perform in Josiah Arroner s Palace of Curiosities Estranged from normal society, they share a basic human need for acceptance and love.Their story is told in the present tense, similar to The Night Circus and like Erin Morgenstern s debut, this will probably be a marmite read There are elements of the grotesque as you might expect in a tale about those characters considered freaks by the rest of society probably not to be recommended for those of a sensitive nature I really enjoyed this whimsical tale of unconventional characters set against the backdrop of a murky Victorian London Looking forward to readingfrom this author. I listened to the audiobook of this and was unfortunately disappointed I thought the narration by Jane Copland was very good but the story was let down by poor characters and a completely bizarre ending which didn t fit with the feel of the rest of the book This book tells the story of Eve and Abel who are both performers in Professor Josiah Arroner s Palace of Curiosities It is written with two separate narrations which worked well to tell their different back stories Overall, I enjoyed Abel s story muchand I think the only point of having Eve in the book was to turn it into a romance Why do all books have to have a romance Eve was a bit a doormat which may have been the point but she certainly isn t a good role model for young woman and it takes her far too long to realise her situation view spoiler that her husband is using her to make money and has no romantic or sexual feelings for her However, once she does realise this she is immediately angry and becomes a murder no middle ground hide spoiler Before Eve Is Born, Her Mother Goes To The Circus She Buys A Penny Twist Of Coloured Sugar And Settles Down To Watch The Heart Stopping Main Attraction A Lion, Billed As A Monster From The Savage Heart Of Africa, Forged In The Heat Of A Merciless Sun Mama Swears She Hears The Lion Sigh, Just Before It Leapsand When Eve Is Born, The Story Goes, She Didn T Cry She Meowed And Licked Her Paws When Abel Is Pulled From The Stinking Thames, The Mudlarks Are Sure He Is Long Dead As They Search His Pockets To Divvy Up The Treasure, His Eyes Crack Open And He Coughs Up A Stream Of Black Water But How Has He Survived A Week In That Thick Stew Of Human Waste Cast Out By Victorian Society, Eve And Abel Find Succour From An Unlikely Source They Will Become The Lion Faced Girl And The Flayed Man, Star Performers In Professor Josiah Arroner S Palace Of Curiosities And There Begins A Journey That Will Entwine Their Fates Forever This wonderful debut novel was way outside my usual comfort zone, but I found it mesmerising The writing is wonderful, and I ve spent the last day living in Josiah Arroner s Palace of Curiosities with Abel, the Flayed Man and Eve, the Lion Faced Girl At the start, I thought the present tense telling would be difficult it s a great tribute to the author s mastery of her craft that I stopped being aware of it very quickly, and it only helped to draw me in to the here and now of this murky and disturbing world There are some pretty horrifying, repulsive and explicit scenes, and the book certainly wouldn t appeal to everyone but I witnessed them all willingly and with my eyes wide open The Victoran backdrop is familiar enough and so well drawn but I adored the distorted lens through which everything else is seen What an imagination I ll look forward to readingby Rosie Garland. Probably a 4.5, but I enjoyed it so much I m going to round up rather than down.This is a dark, sometimes violent, yet ultimately uplifting book about 2 freaks one a hairy lion faced lady, and the other a confused, forgetful man who cannot die and fears the memories that haunt his dreams This is not the stuff of happy fairy tales, but rather the story of 2 outsiders who come to value and exult in their otherness I loved the fact that the lion faced lady was at her happiest when exulting in her strangeness, and that the other members of the freak show were not people who wanted or invited pity or disgust My only dislike was that I wanted the ending to be a bit bigger andexultant, but in its own way it worked very well so that s just my personal preference This is really an odd little gem of a book and I m glad I found it. I must admit, I came to this novel with low expectations comparisons with Angela Carter left me expecting some steampunk pastiche of Nights At The Circus, or an inferior version of Katherine Dunn s Geek Love I was wrong though Initially, the book won me over with the cleverness of its writing It s extremely easy to read, but constantly carries the reader s mind ahead of the story with subliminal prompts Visceral with pungent recurring themes of hair, flesh, sweat and innards, the story itself is a charming and compelling albeit not particularly profound or original faux Victorian tale of love between freaks I very much enjoyed reading it.
Born in London to a runaway teenager, Rosie has always been a cuckoo in the nest She s an eclectic writer and performer, ranging from singing in post punk gothic band The March Violets, through touring with the Subversive Stitch exhibition in the 90s to her alter ego Rosie Lugosi the Vampire Queen, cabaret chanteuse and mistress of ceremonies.She has published five solo collections of poetry and
- 326 pages
- The Palace of Curiosities
- Rosie Garland
- 19 August 2019 Rosie Garland