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The Fascination por Essie Fox
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The Fascination (edição 2023)

por Essie Fox (Autor)

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Victorian England. A world of rural fairgrounds and glamorous London theatres. A world of dark secrets and deadly obsessions Twin sisters Keziah and Tilly Lovell are identical in every way, except that Tilly hasn't grown a single inch since she was five. Then at the age of 15 the girls are sold to a mysterious Italian known as 'Captain'. Theo is an orphan, raised by his grandfather. Resenting his grandson for his mother's death in childbirth, Theo is forced to leave home without a penny to his name when he remarries, and a new heir is produced. Unable to train to be a doctor as he'd hoped, Theo finds employment in Dr Summerwell's Museum of Anatomy in London, and here he meets Captain and his theatrical 'family' of performers, freaks and outcasts. But it is Theo's fascination with Tilly and Keziah that will lead all of them into a web of dark deceits, exposing the darkest secrets and threatening everything they know...… (mais)
Membro:Sarah-Hope
Título:The Fascination
Autores:Essie Fox (Autor)
Informação:Orenda Books (2023), 300 pages
Coleções:A sua biblioteca
Avaliação:****
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The Fascination por Essie Fox

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Mostrando 4 de 4
Here's how the publisher's blurb for Essie Fox's The Fascination ends: "Exploring universal themes of love and loss, the power of redemption and what it means to be unique, The Fascination is an evocative, glittering and bewitching gothic novel that brings alive Victorian London and darkness and deception that lies beneath..."

That description nails it. Of course, on its own it doesn't tell you much about the plot or specific characters, but it offers an apt description of what readers can experience with this novel. So let me share some of those details in a way that avoid ruining any of the many surprises the novel offers.

The Fascination, set in Victorian England, is built around two communities, each very different from the other, but also with surprising areas of overlap. One community is comprised of a family of outcasts. The Captain, serves as the gentle patriarch of the group, and has gathered around himself an assortment of waifs and outsiders, including people with physical differences that make them a form of entertainment for others. The second community is formed of the wealthy and powerful, mostly men, who are collectors of human oddities with jar after jar filled with nonviable fetuses, anatomical specimens, and strange creatures concocted from mixes of human and animal remains.

At the novel's start, nearly identical twins Keziah and Tilly serve as "models" of the effects of their unscrupulous father's quack remedy. The one way in which the girls aren't identical? Tilly stopped growing at age five. Their father tells his eager audiences that Keziah has always willingly taken his remedy, leading to her obvious good health, while Tilly has always refused to take it, which explains her her small size. This of course is nowhere near the truth, but it makes for a good sales pitch. When their father, in a fit of rage, sells the girls to the Captain, they become part of the family that forms one of the book's communities.

Theo begins his life in the novel's second community. He's bastard whose mother died giving birth to him. Now he's being raised by his wealthy grandfather, who blames the boy for his mother's death and whose real pleasure in life comes from collecting those human and semi-human preserved creatures—which he considers science and sees as proof of his intellectual superiority. When Theo's grandfather fathers a son of his own, Theo is cast out, no longer the heir, no longer afforded the cruel but luxurious home he's been raised in.

You can see the overlap in the Venn diagram of these two communities.

If you enjoy Gothic tales with unexpected heroes and dastardly villains and sudden swings between triumphs and tragedies, you're going to find The Fascination a—well, yes—fascinating read.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via Edelweiss; the opinions are my own. ( )
  Sarah-Hope | Nov 15, 2023 |
Theo lives with his grandfather Lord Seabrook. He has an interest in curiosities and his grandfather has a collection. Keziah and Tilly are twins and after an head injury Tilly stops growing. They live with their father and a travelling fairground community until their lives cross with Theo.

I have read all of the books by Essie Fox so I was definitely giving this one ago. Set in the Victorian period and the dark underbelly of the times. People like Tilly are deemed as different and are not always treated fairly. This book does cover the themes of what at the time people like Tilly were called Freaks. There is also a family mystery in the story and all is revealed with a few twists and turns.

The descriptions are very rich and do give a good idea of the period. This I loved and especially the first half of the book when Keziah and Tilly are living with their father.

I enjoyed the book but have liked other books by the author a lot more hence just three stars. I did think the second half dragged a little bit but I did finish the book. I will certainly read more by the author in the future. ( )
  tina1969 | Aug 28, 2023 |
Set during the Victorian era in the world of fairgrounds and theatres, this tells the story of twins, Keziah and Tilly, who are identical apart from their size, and Theo who has been abandoned by his grandfather, Lord Seabrook. Lord Seabrook has a fascination for the ‘freaks‘ of nature so when the twins’ and Theo’s lives collide, it leads them into a frightening situation.

The Fascination is definitely a fascinating and darkly gothic tale. It’s mysterious, atmospheric and even contains some horror. It’s a story of secrets and about being different in a time when anything out of the norm was seen as a ‘freak’. It’s beautifully and skillfully written. The imagery is wonderful. There’s an underlying thread of creepiness and a hint of the macabre woven into the plot. The characters are colourful, my favourite being Theo. I was totally immersed in their quite disturbing and peculiar world. There is a little twist at the end which i hadn’t guessed at all. Very clever! An engaging, insightful and extremely enjoyable read. ( )
  VanessaCW | Aug 8, 2023 |
Gothic fiction is not my usual genre, but this book, set in late-Victorian England, kept me entertained.

Keziah and Tilly Lovell are identical twins, except that Tilly has not grown since the age of 5. The girls’ father, a charlatan, sells his 15-year-old daughters to a man known as Captain who accepts them into his “family” of outcasts. Meanwhile, Theo, grandson of Lord Seabrook, a man who has an obsession with “freaks,” is evicted from his childhood home when Lord Seabrook remarries. His hopes of becoming a doctor are thereby ended, but he finds employment in Dr. Summerwell’s Museum of Anatomy in London. When Theo meets Captain and the twins, their lives become entwined in surprising ways, but also in ways that put them all in danger.

Chapters alternate between Keziah and Theo’s perspectives. As a result, the reader comes to know them the best because their thoughts are given. There is a diverse cast of other characters, several of whom are considered freaks because they are little people, have a cleft palate, or are excessively hirsute. Their backstories are gradually revealed, and each emerges as a sympathetic character. It is the characters who are “normal” in appearance who prove to be the real monsters; some of them are personifications of pure evil. The morally depraved behaviour of some of these latter characters is almost unbelievable.

The theme examines what it means to be different, other than what is considered “normal.” In Victorian England, physical differences marked a person as a curiousity which made him/her both grotesque and fascinating. Differences also made a person vulnerable to exploitation. All the characters in the novel who are considered oddities face prejudice and injustice.

The novel shows the darker underworld of Victorian entertainment, exposing the grim realities beneath the glamour; one character describes a fair: “’that fair looks very tawdry in the cold ‘ard light of day . . . Like some old whore, all painted up, she shines as bright as Christmas glitter in the hours of the night, but come the dawn she drops her drawers and what is lying underneath is not the most alluring sight.’” In this world, full of deception and squalor, “freaks” are used to titillate the audience.

The contrast to this world is the community which Captain has established. In this chosen family, people receive understanding and support and friendship and love. Members have a sense of trust, belonging and security. Obviously this community is intended to illustrate what happens when people are accepted.

Though the novel is set in a different time period, its theme is relevant to our time. There seems to be an increasing tendency for people to judge and exclude those who are different in some way. It is a good time to be reminded that, despite superficial differences, we are all humans who long to be accepted.

Lovers of gothic fiction will find the typical characteristics of the genre: an atmosphere of mystery and suspense, omens and visions, events that suggest a supernatural connection, and women in distress. The number of coincidences, unexpected connections between a small number of people, bothered me, but the prominence of coincidence in Victorian novels (including those of Charles Dickens, Miss Miller’s hero) influences me to be more accepting of them in this novel set in the Victorian era.

One element that surprised me is the big reveal on the last page. Was this really supposed to be a shock to the reader? I suspected this from the fourth page, and there are many hints throughout so there seems undue emphasis on this revelation. Perhaps it’s just a narrative device to emphasize the blindness of shallow people?

The book is well-researched so has a great sense of time and place. Though it includes some difficult topics like emotional and physical abuse, drug dependency, dark secrets and deceptions, moral corruption, sexual perversion, and violence, the novel suggests a better world is possible.

Note: Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | Jul 6, 2023 |
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Victorian England. A world of rural fairgrounds and glamorous London theatres. A world of dark secrets and deadly obsessions Twin sisters Keziah and Tilly Lovell are identical in every way, except that Tilly hasn't grown a single inch since she was five. Then at the age of 15 the girls are sold to a mysterious Italian known as 'Captain'. Theo is an orphan, raised by his grandfather. Resenting his grandson for his mother's death in childbirth, Theo is forced to leave home without a penny to his name when he remarries, and a new heir is produced. Unable to train to be a doctor as he'd hoped, Theo finds employment in Dr Summerwell's Museum of Anatomy in London, and here he meets Captain and his theatrical 'family' of performers, freaks and outcasts. But it is Theo's fascination with Tilly and Keziah that will lead all of them into a web of dark deceits, exposing the darkest secrets and threatening everything they know...

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