The Ringmaster’s Daughter
There’s just something about books set in the war years (WWII) that draws me to them. The Book Thief and Water for Elephants are among my favourite reads. That’s why I was so drawn to read The Ringmaster’s Daughter.
The Ringmaster’s Daughter – Book Description
Circus people don’t ask who you were before, or what god you believe in… when you join the circus, you are family, whatever your past.
Paris, 1940. Twenty-year-old Michel Bonnet lives on the edge of the law, finding work where he can breaking in horses on the outskirts of the city. But when the Nazis invade, Michel takes refuge as a stowaway on a rickety train bound for the rural south. It’s a journey that will change his life forever.
The train is property of Le Cirque Neumann – a travelling circus owned by the troubled and irritable showman Werner Neumann. Neumann offers Michel a job caring for the company’s horses – a lucky break, but with an unusual condition attached. Michel must keep to himself and never speak of what he sees behind the glittering curtain of the big top.
But as Michel finds himself pulled into the strange and wondrous world of the great spectacular it becomes more difficult to keep his promise. Why does the man with the performing monkey never speak, and the sword swallower turn his face away? Who are the silent, shadowy figures who flit like moths between the wagons when the sun is down? It’s clear that Neumann is keeping his performers hidden away… but why?
And how can Michel win the love of the beautiful and exotic trapeze artist Freida – the graceful, green-eyed star of Neuman’s spectacular – when he’s been forbidden to even meet her gaze?
A heartbreaking and uplifting wartime novel– perfectforfansof Water for Elephants, The Nightingale and The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
There are those who long for home, who cannot find themselves comfortable anywhere but with that which they already now. But there are those who welcome a change of sound, of sight and of smell. They long for the unknown just as others long for the known.— Carly Schabowski, The Ringmaster’s Daughter
This WWII tale centers on Michel Bonnet, a young horse handler running away from Paris as the Germans start to enter the city. Slightly lost in life but having a very kind heart, he finds himself joining a struggling circus as their horse handler. And her Michel is introduced to a cast of secretive and rather odd groups of circus performers. How he makes his ‘home’ with them and falls in love with the beautiful Ringmaster’s Daughter makes a wonderful read.
There’s history, romance, intrigue and beautiful descriptions that made The Ringmaster’s Daughter a very enjoyable read. I was drawn into the magical world of the circus as Michel was.
This captivating story progressed at fairly fast pace. The WWII setting was realistic without being too dark.
I really enjoyed Carly’s writing and hope this debut novel is the start of many more books from her.
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Carly Schabowski worked as a journalist in both North Cyprus and Australia before returning to Oxford, where she studied for an MA and then a PhD in creative writing at Oxford Brookes University. Carly now teaches at Oxford Brookes University as an associate lecturer in Creative Writing for first and second-year English literature students.
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I received a ARC from NetGalley and the publisher, Bookouture in exchange for an honest review.