Author: Julie Mayhew
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Published by: Hot Key Books
publication date: 19/04/18
My rating: ★★★★★
I received a copy from Hot Key Books in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Can this shocking new feeling be love, or is it electrickery?
In a lowly side-show fair in eighteenth-century England, teenager Mim is struggling to find her worth as an act. Not white, but not black enough to be truly exotic, her pet parrot who speaks four languages is a bigger draw than her. But Alex, the one-armed boxer boy, sees her differently. And she, too, feels newly interested in him.
But then Dr Fox arrives with his scientific kit for producing ‘electrickery’ – feats of electrical magic these bawdy audiences have never seen before. To complete his act, Fox chooses Mim to play the ‘Electrical Venus’. Her popularity – and the electric-shocking kisses she can provide for a penny – mean takings are up, slop is off the menu and this spark between her and Fox must surely be love.
But is this starring role her true worth, or is love worth more than a penny for an electrifying kiss?
An intoxicating and atmospheric coming of age story set in the filth and thrill of a travelling show during the height of the Georgian Enlightenment.
The Electrical Venus started out as a radio drama, also written by Julie Mayhew, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 back in 2014. Julie has now written it as a YA book, and what a book it is! It’s set in the backdrop of an Eighteenth century sideshow fayre, told from the perspective of Mim and Alex. The story follow’s ‘girl exotic’ Mim, who is essentially a glorified slave in the travelling show along with George the parrot, the other half of her act. George is hilarious, though rarely does what he should. Bottom of the billing and not far off being sold, fellow performer Alex plans a new act to prevent this. Alex’s plans are derailed when Dr Fox comes in with a proposition for his Electrickery act, transforming Mim into The Electrical Venus (where men can kiss her for a penny) sending her straight to the top of the bill overnight. But is this new feeling love?
I thought Mim’s relationship with Alex was incredibly interesting to watch unfold and change throughout, I love the bond they share. The complex and at times manipulating relationship between Mim and Fox was particularly gripping, it showed Mim’s naive side and her need to feel loved, something that’s easy to relate to. The second half was my favourite, so much I devoured it in one sitting. I found the performance scenes gripping and intense, I spent the whole time on the edge of my seat unable to read my eyes away from the pages.
I haven’t read many books set in this period. In fact I don’t think there are many YA books set during this time, which was one of the reasons I jumped at the chance to review it. The writing style, how the characters spoke and the slow pacing took some getting used to. This book is a slow burner but still an extremely rewarding read so don’t let this put you off. It’s such an incredibly beautiful book. I loved the ending, it was everything I wanted and then some. It’s a tricky book to describe, words don’t do it justice. I highly recommend it though! If you’re attending YALC in July, definitely add it to your TBR and pop along to her panel and signing.