Set in the 20th century, this very emotional tale weaves together the stories of two women. Alternately we follow Lilly Blackwood, a young albino girl who has been kept in a secret attic room most of her life till one day her mom sold her to a traveling circus freak show. Once there we are in the circus world, with all the good and bad. We jump two decades later, with Julia Blackwood returning to the family farm where she will soon discover the attic’s dark secrets ….
The story is very touching as we slowly discover the disturbing and frightening things done to Lilly and the kind of life she had hidden away in an attic for years and how she must have felt to be sold by someone she loved to an unscrupulous man running a circus. Undeniably Ms. Wiseman did extensive research to recreate the circus life, its slang, performers and their superstitions, animals training and shows, their behaviours including noises and most of all, how the freak shows was run and how important and lucrative this sideshow was, not forgetting the presence of fraudulent medium star performer who was the highlight in many ways. In graphic scenes, the story also explores how the circus animals were treated or mistreated.
The story overlaps with Julia taking over her family’s horse business and slowly the secret that binds the two lies at the heart of the tragedy…..Moving between Lilly’s and Julia stories the authors has portrayed two extraordinary and very different women with exceptional life filled with family secrets, tragedy, hope and joy. Their stories displayed a mix of emotions that can possibly drain some readers. Both characters are compelling as well as the myriad of vivid secondary players even the evil ones. All roles were played perfectly.
This engrossing tale is written in short chapters using contemporary language and keeps a steady pace throughout. “The Life She Was Given” is a page tuner almost impossible to put down.
I received this review copy from the publisher via Netgalleys .