Book Review – Orphans Of The Carnival

by Carol Birch (Canongate) ISBN: 9781782116547

Carol Birch is a true author. I know this because with this novel she has taken an innocuous collection of facts and created an entire life and a deeply believable story of that life out of them.  The finesse with which she has done this is nothing short of charming.

Julia Pastrana was born covered in hair with several appearance similarities to the evolutionary father of the human race, that being the ape. The novel follows a possible life that Ms Pastrana might have had, incorporating her performance on the stage, her undignified and endless examinations by scientists and doctors for financial gain by her employers, her marriage to her manager and her death after giving birth to a child who inherited her hirsute condition.

This novel is bittersweet pathos. At a time where the whole world is embroiled in a raging war on inequality, the story of Julia reminded me of the true nature of humanity, both beautiful and terrible.

Justine Cullinan

Posted on: 25th November 2016