Tuesday 22 September 2015

Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry

4 out of 5 stars

This novel, a debut from the author, is full of eerie atmosphere. Set in 1899 in New York, it features Sylvan the night soiler, Odile Church, from the performing show that gives the novel its name and Alphie, who finds herself unexpectedly in a mental asylum.

Sylvan finds an abandoned baby, and Odile, having lost her mother, is worried about her twin sister, who took off.

How these stories connect the characters is part of the charm of the book. Also magical are the “lesser” characters, who are richly and beautifully drawn. They add depth to the mystery and the storyline, and not one is a waste of time or effort. The setting of scene does mean that the reader is almost literally “in the dark” for quite a long time, but  it is worth persevering.

Parry paints a vivid picture of Victorian New York. You can smell the city, and for the time that you follow these odd souls on their various quests, you are immersed in their tragedy and stuck in their mire.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself in this well-paced, theatrical dance. Shocking at times, and harrowing too, this is not a book that anyone will forget easily.

A spellbinding read.

ISBN: 9781443438124

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