This is a fascinating and unusual story. It fuses the golden age of the late 1890 with romantic magical realism …think Cirq du Soleil meets Moulin Rouge. The writing is luxurious and brilliantly evocative. I love the way the author takes time to build landscapes of the imagination. At one level you can enjoy this like a Breughel or LS Lowry painting and lose yourself in the intricately drawn and mysterious detail. At another level it’s a strange love story, or the tale of a struggle between two brilliant but flawed men.
In narrative terms it’s not a page turner and that’s just fine. The names and locations can be a little distracting and the central plot is so obfuscated by the fabulous literary embroidery I can see why some find it too much to struggle through, the cloth is just too rich. However the beauty or execution in of its self makes the journey worthwhile.
Whilst I hate traditional circus of clowns and lions under the big top I have always loved the dark spectacle of Cirq du Soleil. The author invites you peer through the flap in the tent or press your nose up against the store window of a Victorian toy shop and wonder at the treats inside.
The performance by Jim Dale is very good, he’s always great value. One slight distraction is that the voices he uses for the protagonists are essentially the same as the he used for Ron and Ginny Weasley when he performed the Harry Potter books…which can be a little distracting. These are very minor complaints, barely enough to warrant the deduction of a star. This is an unusual and captivating story, beautifully told, a must listen pick.
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