Title: The Illusionists
Publisher: Harper Collins £14.99 (hardback)
Publication Date: 27 February 2014
Bestselling author of the phenomenally successful The Kashmir Shawl is back with her latest literary installment and this time she’s kept it local.
Enter the dirty and depraved streets of London in 1870 and meet Eliza, beautiful, fiercely independent and defying convention. Through her work, as an artist’s model, she meets the magnetic and unashamedly stubborn Devil, a born showman whose dream is to own his own theatre. Third in our unlikely trio is Carlo Bonomi, a hot-tempered dwarf with a ridiculous talent for contortion and illusion. Strong personalities mean emotions run high with only Eliza on hand to balance the uneasy peace. Mild-mannered artist Jasper Button and socially awkward Heinrich Bayer complete our unexpected family. Thrown together by a twist of fate, their lives are inextricably linked and as Eliza gets sucked into the seductive and dangerous world that her strange companions inhabit, she risks not only her heart, but also her life.
The novel is rooted in love, first and foremost that of the theatre, but also love of our leading lady Eliza. She has a beautiful spirit and sense of character and I could certainly identify with her conflicting emotions and her desire not to be dominated by the man she loves, she wants to be an equal. The disruptions between the motley crew of characters stem indirectly from her as the competition between her admirers rages through the pages – although one should note that it’s an unfair battle as she is fated from day one to be with one man in particular.
With that in mind, prepare to fall in love yourself. Devil Wix embodies the elusive, mysterious and artistic man who makes women flutter their eyelashes and fall at his feet – plus he’s got a dark side and a past shrouded in shadows. If I were to cast him in the cinematic adaptation (as I am sure one will follow swiftly) I would cast Ben Whishaw – sorry Mr Depp you’re a bit old for this one!
His second in command Carlo was a poignant character. We discover him drowning in sadness (and beer) after losing his family and fighting a bitter battle against society’s reaction to his stature. Following his descent into anger and eventually an all-consuming jealousy you cannot help but become emotionally entangled, although at times his attitudes were a tad extreme.
Strangely enough, the individual that stood out for me was the eerie individual of Heinrich Bayer, a creator of automatons (a type of robot) who becomes unhealthy attached to his creation Lucy. His act is to dance with Lucy every night at the theatre something which is initially beautiful but quickly becomes disturbing especially when he gives her a ‘voice’, in fact Eliza’s voice. It’s his storyline that provides a unique and extremely dark plot-line that ensures the story has edge and continued momentum alongside the growth of the theatre.
This is a magical, atmospheric and gothic tale of a group of unique and often disturbed individuals who are brought together by the theatre and develop into an inextricably linked family.
Rating: 9 out of 10 – fans of The Night Circus will love this (as will everyone with a touch of imagination)
How to enter:
To be in with a chance to win a SIGNED copy of ‘The Illusionists’ by Rosie Thomas, all you have to do is leave your name and email in the reply box below along with your favourite magical ‘Illusion’. The closing date for entries will be Wednesday 23rd April 2014 at 23.59. ONE winner will then be chosen at random from the entrants and announced on the The Friendly Shelf blog on Thursday 24th April 2014. UK and Ireland only.
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