About the Book
In a series of interwoven fictionalized stories, Deborah Noyes gives voice to the marginalized women in P. T. Barnum’s family — and the talented entertainers he built his entertainment empire on.
Much has been written about P. T. Barnum — legendary showman, entrepreneur, marketing genius, and one of the most famous nineteenth-century personalities. For those who lived in Barnum’s shadow, however, life was complex. P. T. Barnum’s two families — his family at home, including his two wives and his daughters, and his family at work, including Little People, a giantess, an opera singer, and many sideshow entertainers — suffered greatly from his cruelty and exploitation. Yet, at the same time, some of his performers, such as General Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton), became wealthy celebrities who were admired and feted by presidents and royalty. In this collection of interlinked stories illustrated with archival photographs, Deborah Noyes digs deep into what is known about the people in Barnum’s orbit and imagines their personal lives, putting front and center the complicated joy and pain of what it meant to be one of Barnum’s “creatures.”
Oh how I love the circus! It has always called to me and I have ALWAYS wanted to join a troupe! But, it is in my blood! Long time ago relatives of mine were actually seal trainers for Ringling Bros. So, I of course JUMPED, no actually, LEAPED at the chance to read this set of short stories early!
Let me just start out by giving a big thank you to making Barnum more human. Too often I find that he is overly fantasized and romanticized, when in all actuality he was just like you and me. Sure he created something splendid and marvelous, but that doesn’t make him the most amazing human on earth. He was just a person. A genius, but still a person.
These stories are instantly easy to get into and I could see them as a great read aloud with older children, and really just anyone who is in love with the circus. They are short stories so they quickly delve into the plot line. Therefore there isn’t a ton of character development, but I still really enjoyed Noyes’ ability to add in some more of the historical aspect of the Greatest Showman and his troupe while also still creating interesting and wondrous plots.
While we see the less magical side that Barnum would scoff at someone looking into, it makes everything he created that much more miraculous in a sense. I also love the deeper dive into his personal and family life. His family was his troupe, which means that oftentimes his family at home was left forgotten. Something that I think many may find hard to swallow.
About the Author
Deb writes for adults and children and is also an editor and photographer. She lives in Massachusetts with her family.
*I received an arc in exchange for an honest review*