I’ve just finished re-reading Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus. I’d forgotten just what a great writer she was and how much I had enjoyed reading the book first time round.
The story – if you’re not familiar with it – revolves around Fevvers, a winged circus performer, as the 19th turns into the 20th Century. For the first three quarters of the book you don’t quite know whether the wings are real or just a story. You hear how she grows up, in a brothel, becomes part of a freak show and eventually a performer in the circus.
The circus heads to Russia where Carter draws another set of characters; Boffo the clown, the Professor (a monkey who negotiates his own contracts), the Princess (a seemly mute tiger trainer) amongst others. And from St Petersberg the troop set off across Siberia to go to perform for the Emperor of Japan. However, they never arrive as their train is blown up by bandits who think that if only the Tsar were to know of their story they would be able to return to their homes as free men.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading it again.