Nights at the Circus

Angela Carter
Nights at the Circus Cover

Roll-Your-Own Reading Challenge: Nights at the Circus


This is the first book by Angela Carter I've ever read. It's a wild carnival ride of a story, too. Fevvers/Sophia is the toast of several continents, an "aerialiste" who has four arms; two are human arms, and two are wings. An American journaist comes to interview her for his newspaper in San Francisco. He's so smitten with her that when she signs up for a traveling circus, he tags along.

Fevvers is always accompanied by her foster mother/wet nurse Lucia, who may or may not be a witch with her seemingly bottomless handbag. Lots of things are not what they seem to be in the story. Especially at the circus.

The book is divided into three parts: when Fevvers has her triumphant stint in London at the beginning, when she and Lucia join the circus (which is the longest section of the book, I think), and the ending, where they're trying to get back to England from Siberia.

I feel if I write more than that about the story itself, there'd be too many spoilers. There's a lot in the book about feminism and how women are expected to be in the patriarchal world: how Fevvers sees herself through others' eyes, how she changes in particular, how women are treated by men throughout the book. The circus has a couple of characters in particular that embody that (Mignon and the Princess, but there are others too).

The style reminded me, in a great way, of Master and Margarita. I really enjoy magical realism, and a major part of the book is figuring out what's real and what isn't. Overall, I liked the book. I don't think I'd read it again, but I'd like to read more by Carter.