New Review of Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe in the Royal Stuart Journal

My 2nd book Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette (Queenship and Power series) has received a detailed and thoughtful review in the most recent issue of the Royal Stuart Journal  from Dr. Sara Wolfson, a Senior Lecturer at the School of Humanities at Canterbury Christ Church University and an expert on Queen Henrietta Maria.

Click here to read the review in the Royal Stuart Journal 7 (2016) (1)

Click here to purchase Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe: Henrietta Maria and Marie Antoinette (Queenship and Power series) on Amazon

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Table of Contents for Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

The Table of Contents of my forthcoming book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting is now available online:

Table of Contents

Introduction  Raising a Royal Child

1     Edgar “the Peaceable” (c. 943-75) and Elfrida of Northampton (c. 945-1001)
2     William “the Conqueror” (c. 1028-87) and Matilda of Flanders (c. 1031-83)

Genealogical chart depicting King Henry II of England and his children

3     Henry II (1133-89) and Eleanor of Aquitaine (c. 1124-1204)
4     Henry III (1207-72) and Eleanor of Provence (c. 1223-91)
5     Edward III (1312-77) and Philippa of Hainault (1314-69)
6     Richard III (1452-85) and Anne Neville (1456-85)

Charles I, Henrietta Maria and their two eldest children

7     Ferdinand II of Aragon (1452-1516) and Isabella I of Castile (1451-1504)
8     Henry VIII (1491-1547) and Catherine of Aragon (1485-1536)
9     Frederick V, Elector Palatine (1596-1632) and Elizabeth of England and Scotland (1596-1662)
10    Charles I (1600-49) and Henrietta Maria of France (1609-69)
11    Peter I “the Great” of Russia (1672-1725) and Catherine I (1684-1727)
12    Anne (1665-1714) and George of Denmark (1653-1708)
13    George II (1683-1760) and Caroline of Ansbach (1683-1737)

Nicholas and Alexandra present their daughter, Olga to Queen Victoria

14    Louis XVI of France (1754-93) and Marie Antoinette of Austria (1755-93)
15    Victoria (1819-1901) and Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (1819-61)
16    Nicholas II of Russia (1868-1918) and Alexandra of Hesse-Darmstadt (1872-1918)
17    Juliana of the Netherlands (1909-2004) and Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld (1911-2004)
18    Elizabeth II (1926-) and Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark (1921-)
19    Prince Charles (1948-) and Lady Diana Spencer (1961-97)  20    Prince William (1982-) and Catherine Middleton (1982-)

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte arrive in Canada

Epilogue    The Future of the Royal Nursery

Acknowledgements
Notes
Further Reading
Index

Click here to pre-order your copy of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Quartz Article: The hit Netflix series “The Crown” [and Victoria on PBS] expose all our 21st-century anxieties about powerful women

Claire Foy and Matt Smith as the Queen and Prince Philip in the Netflix series, The Crown

My article in Quartz  discusses how women in power are portrayed on two hit TV shows: The Crown on Netflix and Victoria on PBS. Both Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown and Queen Victoria in Victoria appear as young women who are mentored or challenged by the men who surround them and experience frequent moments of self doubt. In fact, both queens had been trained for their future roles since childhood and were confident queens who were both extremely popular when they first succeeded to the throne. The portrayals of Elizabeth II and Victoria on TV today reflect current anxieties about women in power.

Click here to read “The hit Netflix series “The Crown” exposes all our 21st-century anxieties about powerful women” at Quartz

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Advance Reader Reviews of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

Readers who received advance review copies of my forthcoming book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting are sharing their reviews on goodreads. Raising Royalty will be published by Dundurn Press in Canada in April 2017 and in the USA and UK in May 2017.

Here are excerpts from some of the reader reviews:

“Raising Royalty is a comprehensive study of how…Kings and Queens have raised their children. Twenty families with their widely varying parenting approaches from Anglo-Saxon times to the present are studied.
While the book is a thoroughly researched subject by a scholar, it is a joy to read. It provides a clear picture of how parenting in the rarefied atmosphere of castles and palaces has evolved and, perhaps more importantly, why. Boys were brought up to fight and rule, and girls for dynastic/political marriages. Princes and princesses had no choice one thousand years ago and, one also sympathizes, today their futures are still fixed in stone but with a little more leeway.
Carolyn Harris, the author, has done an excellent job of writing this book for general readership and it will open eyes with the detail and surprises. Recommended for history buffs and royal watchers.” — Julie Ferguson

“I was expecting the book to be entirely be about English royalty, but was pleased to find that it covered enough of Europe to give it some diversity.
Filled with a lot of interesting facts and written in a way that held my attention.
Both well researched and written.” — MissyLynne

“I was expecting a list of “advice” and “lessons” and was pleasantly surprised.
Ms. Harris presents a HUGE amount of history in this book and her skill at writing in a way that keeps the reader engaged and interested is refreshing.
Anyone with any interest in royal families will love this book. It’s a great read. ” — Michelle Griswold

Click here to view all reader reviews for Raising Royalty on goodreads

Click here to pre-order your copy of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Countdown to the Russian Revolution: The Murder of Rasputin in Smithsonian Magazine

Empress Alexandra Feodorovna with Rasputin, her children and a governess.

Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (standing at the right) with Rasputin, her children (top left to right: Anastasia, Alexei and Olga; bottom left and middle: Maria and Tatiana) and the children’s nanny, Maria Vishniakova (bottom right).

December 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the murder of Grigori Rasputin, the controversial holy man, faith healer and adviser to Czar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra. Rasputin’s presence at the Imperial court undermined popular confidence in the ruling Romanov dynasty and he was ultimately murdered by members of the Czar’s extended family and the political elite. Rasputin’s life, reputation and murder are the subject of the December installment of my monthly column in Smithsonian Magazine. I examine Rasputin’s rise to power, theories concerning his ability to alleviate the heir to the throne’s hemophilia and what really happened on the night of his murder.

Click here to read The Murder of Rasputin, 100 Years Later in Smithsonian Magazine

The previous article in my Smithsonian Magazine Russian Revolution series: “What You Need to Know First to Understand the Russian Revolution” is available here.

Sources and Further Reading:
If you are interested on learning more about Rasputin and his impact on the collapse of the Romanov dynasty, I strongly recommend Douglas Smith’s 2016 biography,Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs. During the research for his previous book, Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy, Smith found that almost every prominent Russian in the last years of Czar Nicholas II’s reign had an opinion about Rasputin and his influence. Smith therefore draws on an unprecedented range of source material to determine how Rasputin came to be introduced to the Imperial family, his role at the court of the last Czar and how he developed the larger than life reputation that persists to the present day.

Smith reveals that much of what we think we know about Rasputin is legendary but in the political and social conditions of early twentieth century Russia, what people thought they knew about “the Mad Monk” became even more significant than his actual behaviour. Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs far surpasses all previous biographies of Rasputin and is essential reading for anyone interested in this controversial historical figure.

The quote at the beginning of my Smithsonian article is from the description of Father Zosima, a character who plays a key role in Feodor Dostoyevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov. Zosima dispenses advice and is treated with reverence in the novel, giving a sense of the role of holy men in late Imperial Russian society.

An excerpt from Nicholas II’s letter to his Prime Minister, Peter Stolypin about the first meeting between the Imperial couple and Rasputin is published in A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story, a selection of diary entries, letters and memoir excerpts written by Nicholas and Alexandra and the people closest to them. The Complete Wartime Correspondence of Tsar Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra: April 1914-March 1917 (Documentary Reference Collections) has also been published.

Nicholas II’s sister, Grand Duchess Olga, who witnessed Rasputin praying by the bedside of her nephew, Alexei, survived the revolution and eventually settled in Canada. During her last years, she dictated her memoirs to Ian Vorres, which were published as The Last Grand Duchess: Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna. There is also a popular biography of Olga, Olga Romanov by Patricia Phenix.

Empress Alexandra’s lady-in-waiting, Sophie Buxhoeveden, also survived the revolution and wrote three sets of memoirs about her time at the Russian court. before the Storm discusses the possibility that Rasputin employed peasant faith healing techniques. Buxhoeveden also wrote The Life & Tragedy Of Alexandra Feodorovna, Empress Of Russia. A Biography and Left Behind: Fourteen Months in Siberia During the Revolution, December 1917-February 1919 about the Imperial family and her own experiences during the Russian Revolution.

 In Les Romanov: Une dynastie sous le règne du sang (Biographies Historiques) (French Edition), French historian Hélène Carrère d’Encausse discusses the theory that Rasputin’s success in alleviating the heir to the throne’s hemophilia symptoms was his insistence that the doctors leave the child alone and stop giving him medications, which may have included aspirin.

The traditional exaggerated account of Rasputin’s murder, including his supposed immunity to poisoned cakes and superhuman strength in his last moments comes from Lost Splendor: The Amazing Memoirs of the Man Who Killed Rasputin by Prince Felix Yussupov. The Prince was the only one of the murderers who discussed the deed publicly and his sensationalized account remains the most widely known description of  Rasputin’s death, informing popular culture.

Rasputin’s daughter, Maria, was the only member of his family to escape Russia after the Revolution. She became a circus lion tamer and cabaret dancer before settling down as a Russian language teacher in the United States. She wrote a number of books about her famous father, including Rasputin: The Man Behind the Myth – A Personal Memoir by Maria Rasputin and Patte Barham.  Maria Rasputin has been the subject of numerous historical novels including Rasputin’s Daughter by Robert Alexander.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Advance Praise for Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

Advance Praise for my 3rd book, Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting, which will be published by Dundurn Press in April 2017:

“Today‘s parents think they have it tough, monitoring screen time and shuttling kids to soccer matches. Imagine being King William I, the Conqueror, who in 1079 had to fight his firstborn son on the battlefield; or Henry II, whose villainous son, John, is today best known as Robin Hood‘s arch enemy. Carolyn Harris‘s history of royal child rearing is a must read for anyone interested in the never-ending saga of royal families and a fascinating read.” (Mark Reid, Editor-in-Chief, Canada’s History Magazine)

“Carolyn Harris has taken an innovative approach with this engaging new work, bringing together a millennia of royal parenting from Edgar “the Peaceable” and Elfrida of Northampton right up to the present day with the children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Harris has deftly woven together the history of various rulers, evaluating their relationships with their children and bringing in wider trends in parenting in different eras. She notes both rivalry and tension between parents and children, as aptly illustrated by the Hanoverian monarchs of England, as well as evidence of affection and strong bonds between rulers and their offspring. Any reader with an interest in the history of monarchy or parenting itself will find this an absorbing read, both accessible and replete with interesting information. A real strength of this book is that it puts our present-day fascination with current and recent monarchs and their children in a long-term historical context.” (Dr. Elena (Ellie) Woodacre, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern European History Postgraduate Student Coordinator-Faculty of HSS University of Winchester, editor of The Royal Studies Journal)

“How to raise the kids? It is a question that has confounded parents for centuries. Imagine how parenting has been for royalty throughout the ages? Royal historian Carolyn Harris’s newest book focuses on this very topic. In Raising Royalty, Harris’s detailed research [explores] how royal parenting has evolved throughout the last thousand years. Harris focuses on twenty royal parents – from Edgar the Peaceable and Elfrieda of Northampton to Prince William and Catherine Middleton. This book is delightfully readable, infused with the brilliance of pure scholarship.” (Marlene A. Eilers Koenig, author of Queen Victoria’s Descendants)

“Carolyn Harris’s encyclopedic knowledge infuses Raising Royalty with fascinating insights into the lives of Europe’s Royal Families. Moving through the centuries, Harris highlights unique and evolving family dynamics and traditions right up to our present day. An essential addition to any royal enthusiast’s collection, Raising Royalty provides a captivating look at the families occupying the centre of some of the world’s greatest monarchies.” (Nathan Tidridge, author of Canada’s Constitutional Monarchy)

Click here to pre-order your copy of Raising Royalty: 1000 Years of Royal Parenting

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Review of Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada in the Saskatchewan Law Review

My book, Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights has been reviewed by Steven Laroque at the Saskatchewan Law Review. Click here to read the review in the Saskatchewan Law Review, Volume 79, Number 2, 2016, p. 327-330.

Here’s an excerpt from the review:

Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada contains many facts and stories within a small number of pages. Throughout the book, printed with a gloss finish, are pictures and artwork surrounding the places and historical events relevant to Magna Carta. These aid in bringing life and colour to many of these great historical moments. This book provides an easy read and brief introduction for those who are interested in the main historical developments relating to Magna Carta over the last eight hundred years.”

Click here to read the review in the Saskatchewan Law Review, Volume 79, Number 2, 2016, p. 327-330.

Click here to purchase Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada: Democracy, Law, and Human Rights

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Royalty at Rideau Hall cited in The Making of Women Artists in Victorian England

My chapter in Canada and the Crown: Essays in Constitutional Monarchy entitled “Royalty at Rideau Hall: Lord Lorne, Princess Louise and the Emergence of the Canadian Crown” has been cited prominently in a new book, The Making of Women Artists in Victorian England: The Education and Careers of Six Professionals by Professor Jo Devereux at the University of Western Ontario.

Princess Louise in Canada, dressed for an Ottawa winter.

Princess Louise in Canada, dressed for an Ottawa winter.

In her analysis of Princess Louise, an accomplished painter and sculptor, Devereux states:

“On July 24, 1878, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli invited the Marquess of Lorne to become Canada’s fourth Governor General, an appointment which, as Carolyn Harris points out, ‘reflected the long-standing personal relationship between Queen Victoria’s family and the newly self governing Dominion.’…Louise and Lorne could be said to embody for Canadians their continuing connection with the British monarchy, a connection that continues today in the style of the numerous royal visits to Canada, in the many regiments in the Canadian military named for Princess Louise, and in the fact that both the province of Alberta and Lake Louise, in Alberta are named for her.”

“The presence of Princess Louise and the Marquess of Lorne, their travels across this large country and their response to Canadian regionalism in the years just after Confederation in many ways helped define the future ceremonial visits to Canada by members of the British royal family that continue to this day. Carolyn Harris suggests that the ‘practice of royal visits encompassing the full range of Canadian geography was another precedent set in the nineteenth century that continues to shape the structure of royal tours of Canada.'”

Princess Louise was the first member of the royal family to visit the province of British Columbia, which will be toured by William and Kate, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte at the end of this month.

Click here to purchase The Making of Women Artists in Victorian England: The Education and Careers of Six Professionals

Click here to purchase Canada and the Crown: Essays in Constitutional Monarchy, which contains my chapter “Royalty at Rideau Hall: Lord Lorne, Princess Louise and the Emergence of the Canadian Crown.”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Weekend Bookshelf (Georgian Edition): The Trials of the King of Hampshire, The English and The Annotated Pride and Prejudice

Royal History: The Trials of the King of Hampshire: Madness, Secrecy and Betrayal in Georgian England by Elizabeth Foyster. 

The madness of King George III made the mental health of the wealthy and powerful a national concern. The early nineteenth century saw the invention of the tabloid press as the workers who moved to the cities during the industrial revolution created a market for inexpensive broadsheet newspaper. In this cultural climate, the insanity trial of the 3rd Earl of Portsmouth was a public sensation. The Earl was well connected to the leading cultural figures of his time. Jane Austen’s father was his first tutor and Lord Byron was part of his wedding party. Foyster, co-author of The Family in Early Modern England, places the reader in the position of the Lunacy Commission, beginning the book with the insanity trial then presenting the evidence concerning Portsmouth’s sanity over the course of his life.

Portsmouth’s experiences reveal the dark side of the seemingly genteel high society of Georgian England. Although George III’s health increased public awareness of mental illness, those deemed to be “backward” or “mad” were treated badly, confined to public or private madhouses and often treated as shameful family secrets. Portsmouth’s trial seemed to threaten the existing social order as the earl’s servants and labourers on his estate testified that he had the mind of a child, challenging the recollections of members of the aristocracy who did not seem to notice anything out of the ordinary when he appeared at balls. Only when Portsmouth cast his vote as a peer in the House of Lords during the adultery trial of Queen Caroline did he appear “muddled” to members of his own social class as he hesitated and changed his mind over the course of the legal proceedings that became the first royal scandal covered by the tabloid press.

Portsmouth’s story unfolds like a novel, filled with blackmail, abductions, adultery, secret marriages, disputed inheritances and family scandals. Readers will find the book difficult to put down. There’s also a Canadian postscript to the story: Portsmouth’s widow eventually immigrated to Canada and settled in Chatham-Kent where the story of “How the Countess of Portsmouth came to Chatham” remains a fixture of haunted walks in his Ontario town. *****

 History: The English: A Social History, 1066–1945 by Christopher Hibbert

I bought The English: A Social History in a second hand bookstore last month, having read and enjoyed Queen Victoria: A Personal History and Napoleon: His Wives and Women by Christopher Hibbert. The English: A Social History is a denser book, filled with details of how English people of all social classes lived their lives from the Norman Conquest of 1066 until The Second World War. The book is divided into four parts: the middle ages, Tudor and Early Stuart times, the Restoration and Eighteenth Century, and Victorian and Modern Times with chapters in each section addressing a single theme. Hibbert uses both documentary and literary sources to illuminate daily life in past centuries but is sometimes too reliant on a single set of texts for a particular theme. (The daily lives of medieval women are summarized through analysis of the Paston letters from the Wars of the Roses alone). The strongest section of the book covers the Restoration and Georgian times as Hibbert captures the sense of England in transition, rapidly becoming more urbanized, populous and connected to the rest of the world. A thorough and readable examination of social change in English history. ***
 Literature: The Annotated Pride and Prejudice: A Revised and Expanded Edition by Jane Austen and David M. Shapard

When Jane Austen’s famous novel Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813, her readers recognized the social constraints that governed the lives of the characters. There was no need to explain why Mr. Bennet had to visit Mr. Bingley before his wife and daughters could be introduced to him or why Lydia Bennet had the power to undermine her sisters’ marriage prospects through her scandalous conduct.  Shapard’s annotations are filled with interesting details about regency society that bring this context alive for the modern reader. What was the purchasing power of Mr. Bingley’s 5,000 pounds per year? (£150,000 to £200,000 in modern income but goods were more expensive and hiring servants was more affordable). Why is Mr. Collins so grateful for the “condescension” of his patroness Lady Catherine de Bourgh. (Only 30% of early nineteenth century clergymen received a living within five years of ordination and half spent their lives as poorly paid curates). Why did the Gardiners leave their children in London when they spent Christmas with the Bennets? (Christmas would not be a family celebration centred on the children until Victorian times). The Annotated Pride and Prejudice is an excellent guide to all things regency that will fascinate anyone interested in Jane Austen and Georgian England.  *****

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Weekend Bookshelf: The Tudor Brandons, Ivan’s War and Water for Elephants

 Royal History: The Tudor Brandons: Mary And Charles – Henry VIII’s Nearest & Dearest by Sarah-Beth Watkins by Sarah-Beth Watkins.

When Michael Hirst wrote the screenplay for the Showtimes series, The Tudors, he was fascinated by King Henry VIII’s lifelong friend and brother-in-law, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. Hirst wrote in The Tudors: Its’ Good to Be King, “Charles Brandon, was, perhaps, the only man in all of England to successfully retain Henry’s affection over a span of forty years.” Over the course of his reign, Henry remained close to Charles even though his friend committed the transgression of marrying the King’s widowed sister Mary without permission. Charles remained in favour even as Henry ordered the executions of formerly trusted advisers, Thomas More then Thomas Cromwell and queens, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Hirst made Charles a prominent character in The Tudors, giving the Duke and Duchess of Suffolk their most notable appearance in popular culture since the 1950s Walt Disney film, The Sword and the Rose.

Watkins, author of Lady Katherine Knollys, The Unacknowledged Daughter of Henry VIII, provides a short, readable biography of Charles and Mary in The Tudor Brandons. At the centre of the couple’s story is their elopement in 1515. Mary was the widow of King Louis XII of France and she married Charles Brandon to avoid being compelled to make another dynastic marriage. There would not be another instance of an English princess marrying a subject until Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise married John Campbell, Lord Lorne in 1871. Watkins provides a thoughtful analysis of the circumstances surrounding the controversial royal wedding including reasons why Henry VIII was inclined to forgive the match and the implicit challenge to his authority.

The Tudor Brandons also includes Brandon’s family history (he descended from a long line of opportunists who were often on the wrong side of the law) and Mary’s continued role in Anglo-French relations including her presence at the Field of the Cloth of Gold summit between Henry VIII and Francis I. Mary also exerted a cultural influence at court, shaping trends in fashion and country house gardens in addition to popularizing picnic suppers for the elite. Charles and Mary’s granddaughter Lady Jane Grey, the nine days queen, became a significant figure in later Tudor history and the family remains a part of popular culture today (For another biography of Henry VIII’s younger sister, see Mary Rose by David Loades). ***

History: Ivan’s War: Life and Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945

There have been numerous books written about the experiences of the British “Tommy” or German “Fritz” fighting on the front lines of the Second World War. In Ivan’s War, Catherine Merridale, author of Red Fortress: History and Illusion in the Kremlin, examines the daily life of “Ivan,” the Soviet soldier in what became known in Russia as The Great Patriotic War. Merridale provides the details of daily life at the front. In the early days of the war, adequate training (not to mention regular rations) were in short supply. Unless soldiers brought their own socks, they spent the war marching in one size fits all foot wrappers. There was no standardized system of leave and military service therefore meant long separations from families who also suffered hardships during the war.

In addition to reconstructing the daily lives of soviet soldiers during the Second World War, Merridale examines broader questions about the motives and worldviews prevalent within the Red Army. What motivated individual soldiers to keep fighting under such harsh conditions? What were the differences in perspective between older people, who might have had military experience from the First World War and the reign of Nicholas II and younger people, who had never known any other political system than the Soviet regime? How were women and religious majorities perceived? What were the factors that contributed to the atrocities committed by the Red Army in Romania, Hungary and East Prussia? Merridale concludes with a thoughtful analysis of the lasting impact of the wartime experience and includes the perceptions of the surviving veterans. ****

 Historical Fiction: Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen.

When veterinary student Jacob Jankowski loses his parents in a car accident, he leaves Cornell university and runs away with a 2nd tier traveling circus during the depression. The book was adapted into an Academy Award Winning film, Water for Elephants, starring Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson.  In the novel, Jacob is ninety – or perhaps ninety-three, he can’t quite remember – looking back on his youth at the circus from his retirement residence. There’s a realism to his old age but his past unfolds like a fairy tale where the heroine is a elephant named Rosie.

Gruen based the novel on a series of true events that took place in Depression era American circuses and the setting is compelling, filled with intrigues on trains between small towns and tensions between performers and roustabouts. The characters have rather one dimensional personalities, however, and the ending is unconvincing. For circus themed historical fiction with more compelling characters, I recommend The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin or Chang and Eng by Darin Strauss. ***

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather