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Thursday, 18 June 2015
Church Of Marvels
Church of Marvels
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of Bookbridgr
New York, 1895. It's late on a warm city night when Sylvan Threadgill, a young night soiler who cleans out the privies behind the tenement houses, pulls a terrible secret out from the filthy hollows: an abandoned newborn baby. An orphan himself, Sylvan was raised by a kindly Italian family and can't bring himself to leave the baby in the slop. He tucks her into his chest, resolving to find out where she belongs.
Odile Church is the girl-on-the-wheel, a second-fiddle act in a show that has long since lost its magic. Odile and her sister Belle were raised in the curtained halls of their mother's spectacular Coney Island sideshow: The Church of Marvels. Belle was always the star-the sword swallower-light, nimble, a true human marvel. But now the sideshow has burnt to the ground, their mother dead in the ashes, and Belle has escaped to the city.
Alphie wakes up groggy and confused in Blackwell's Lunatic Asylum. The last thing she remembers is a dark stain on the floor, her mother-in-law screaming. She had once walked the streets as an escort and a penny-Rembrandt, cleaning up men after their drunken brawls. Now she is married; a lady in a reputable home. She is sure that her imprisonment is a ruse by her husband's vile mother. But then a young woman is committed alongside her, and when she coughs up a pair of scissors from the depths of her agile throat, Alphie knows she harbors a dangerous secret that will alter the course of both of their lives...
On a single night, these strangers' lives will become irrevocably entwined, as secrets come to light and outsiders struggle for acceptance. From the Coney Island seashore to the tenement-studded streets of the Lower East Side, a spectacular sideshow to a desolate asylum, Leslie Parry makes turn-of-the-century New York feel alive, vivid, and magical in this luminous debut. In prose as magnetic and lucid as it is detailed, she offers a richly atmospheric vision of the past marked by astonishing feats of narrative that will leave you breathless.
I love reading books, were you're reading about different individuals, and as you read, you slowly learn how they're all connected, and you watch them all come together and it's totally genius. I was intrigued from the beginning trying to work out who was connected to who or who was going to be connected to who, I was so excited to see how it was all going to come together. But it wasn't just this anticipation that kept me reading, it was the characters, their lives and the writing.
The writing gripped me from the first page, it created pictures of the places and characters, created an atmosphere and brought the characters to life. The characters were so very well created. They are each desperate and alone, and we get flashbacks of their pasts which helps to bring them to life and give us an understanding of them as well as adding intrigue and learning who they really are in regards to the story. Although I had my suspicions about Orchard. The characters have plenty secrets that add mystery and that you try to guess but you don't find out these secrets until right at the end and you're kind of left open mouthed and "omg". There are so many threads throughout the book that all converge eventually and it's so brilliantly done with little things that you wonder the relevance of and then when it's revealed and it all becomes clear your mind is totally blown.
Each setting is so richly created that you get a real feel for each setting and the time period. The Asylum for instance, was creepy, and unpleasant and kind of made me shudder and made my skin crawl thinking about it when I wasn't reading about it, and you got such a horrible atmosphere and vibe from it that it wasn't pleasant. Each different setting had a different vibe to it and each made you feel something.
While you may get confused at all the threads, as brilliantly done as they are I know I did, it's worth it in the end when everything comes together. The book is darkly atmospheric, it's not all glitz and glamour New York, it's the seedy side of New York that you don't see in TV shows and movies usually. The characters are interesting and dimensional. The writing is gripping and compelling. But most importantly....this book has carnies, you know, sword swallowing and so on so you are pretty much powerless to resist it.