Friday, 19 July 2013

Book Review: "Wonder Show" by Hannah Barnaby

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step inside Mosco’s Traveling Wonder Show, a menagerie of human curiosities and misfits guaranteed to astound and amaze! But perhaps the strangest act of Mosco’s display is Portia Remini, a normal among the freaks, on the run from McGreavy’s Home for Wayward Girls, where Mister watches and waits. He said he would always find Portia, that she could never leave. Free at last, Portia begins a new life on the bally, seeking answers about her father’s disappearance. Will she find him before Mister finds her? It’s a story for the ages, and like everyone who enters the Wonder Show, Portia will never be the same.
      -image and summary from

This book was full of potential. Its writing was lovely and lyrical, full of the vagueness of dreams and yet sharp with the harsh grit of reality. This story could have had it all.

But--it was VERY short. In my library, it was shelved in the Young Adult section, which I found apt for its content. However, nowadays young adult novels are well over 300 pages. I felt the author could have taken advantage of this fact to expand her world. Maybe I'm just greedy, but if I could take a whole pie over a thin slice, you can bet your bottom dollar I would.

I wanted more of everything: Portia and how her relationships affected and formed her; more about the circus and the people in it; and more of an ending. In particular, one character vanishes in the midst of the novel and then we never really hear from her again. I would have liked knowing what happened to her--if she got to where she was going, etc.

If I remember correctly, there were a few instances where God came up. This could have opened up a lot of thought-provoking narrative, but as it was, it was just left hanging. Portia never really commits to any sort of belief or idea about believing. Maybe the author intended to have Portia ever roaming, suspended between realities and never really landing. But to me, it felt a wee bit like playing it safe. I know some people think having this floating feeling, this just-be-you-and-don't-think-of-the-bigger-things idea is a new form of art, but to me, how likes thinking of the bigger picture, it just falls flat.

I loved how the author described the setting of the places Portia came to. The towns, the mansion--they all had their own atmosphere and personalities. The author certainly knows how to weave beautiful words together.

However, somehow I just could not connect to this story like I wanted to. I simply wanted more, of everything.

Three stars!