Listen free for 30 days

Listen with a free trial

One credit a month, good for any title to download and keep.
Unlimited listening to the Plus Catalogue - thousands of select Audible Originals, podcasts and audiobooks.
Exclusive member-only deals.
No commitment - cancel anytime.
Buy Now for £11.99

Buy Now for £11.99

Pay using card ending in
By completing your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and authorise Audible to charge your designated card or any other card on file. Please see our Privacy Notice, Cookies Notice and Interest-based Ads Notice.

Summary

THE Sunday Times Best Seller

This audiobook is read by Tuppence Middleton (Mank and Downton Abbey). 

1866. In a coastal village in southern England, Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea.

But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Her father has sold her, promising Jasper Jupiter his very own leopard girl. It is the greatest betrayal of Nell's life, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship with the other performers and Jasper’s gentle brother Toby, she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her.

In London, newspapers describe Nell as the eighth wonder of the world. Figurines are cast in her image, and crowds rush to watch her soar through the air. But who gets to tell Nell’s story? What happens when her fame threatens to eclipse that of the showman who bought her? And as she falls in love with Toby, can he detach himself from his past and the terrible secret that binds him to his brother? 

Moving from the pleasure gardens of Victorian London to the battle-scarred plains of the Crimea, Circus of Wonders is an astonishing story about power and ownership, fame and the threat of invisibility.

©2021 Elizabeth Macneal (P)2021 Macmillan Publishers International Ltd

Critic reviews

"Beautifully written." (The Times)

"An absolute triumph." (Stacey Halls, author of The Familiars)

"A glittering follow-up to The Doll Factory." (Guardian)

What listeners say about Circus of Wonders

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    50
  • 4 Stars
    26
  • 3 Stars
    15
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    2
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    59
  • 4 Stars
    20
  • 3 Stars
    6
  • 2 Stars
    3
  • 1 Stars
    1
Story
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    45
  • 4 Stars
    26
  • 3 Stars
    10
  • 2 Stars
    5
  • 1 Stars
    4

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Beautiful misery

It is beautifully written, incredibly evocative and comes at the story from obscure and interesting angles, but for me, despite all that, it was not a story I longed to get back to. In fact I was glad when it was over. Perhaps it's just me and I personally need more escapism - this story was just too much like the heartache of real life, with one tragic heartbreak heaped upon the next. Narrated and brought to life with great skill.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

For fans of The Night Circus and Caraval

This was completely up my street. I really enjoyed The Doll Factory and Circus of Wonders didn't disappoint as a second novel. I think the ending was slightly rushed with one or two unanswered questions but other than that, great listen. Tuppence Middleton is a wonderful narrator.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A wonderful tale

This was a five star review for me and my long review is posted on Amazon U.K.

With respect to the audiobook, I have enjoyed Tuppence Middleton’s narration on a number of previous audiobooks, including Elizabeth Macneal’s debut, ‘The Doll Factory’. She is an experienced British actor with stage, film and television credits and she voices the range of characters in this novel with ease. I found her voice exquisite with a silky texture that is very pleasurable to listen to.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • TP
  • 01-06-21

Enjoyed The Doll Factory this falls flat

Clumsy, plodding and repetitive narrative. I really wanted to like this new offering from Elizabeth Macneal but it was awful, the characters were one dimensional, drowning in self pity and loathing, really hard to keep listening as the narration made it worse.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Fab plot, detailed characters, gorgeous narration

Fab plot, detailed characters, gorgeous narration. One of my favourite listens for a long time.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Wordy

Lost my attention about 10 mins in, author is very keen on descriptions, narrator does a good job

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

amazing

I loved the story beautiful written a bit disappointed with the ending and the Jackal.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

well written - but not for me

This book is well written, but the style is present tense and very much based on the senses (tallow candles smoke, velvet is stroked, songbirds trill). Characters are more of a cypher and it felt a little overwrought for me,

Once I've started on a book I usually read straight through, but this one didn't catch my attention - I ended up skimming to find out what happened (exactly as you imagine when you consider the characters set up). Few surprises and for me not a strong evocation of victorian circus and more a well written cliche. And to be fair, that's how I felt about the previous book. So if you loved that (and there was much that was engaging there) you'll likely love this one.

I've been a little surprised by the many good reviews - this felt like it needed another rewrite (not an edit, an actual rewrite - these characters, but a fresh stance and the writing style needed toning down).

Writing this review as a note to myself - don't buy more from this author. No matter how much you enjoy the set up, the lack of character depth, plodding plot and over sensory writing will irk you. Avoid.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Enchanting bittersweet

Interesting and very engaging. I really wanted a happier ending but thats just how life goes sometimes!
Great writing, description and detail. Would kd make a good film. Really recommend this book.