We don't often promote new books but this one has really captured our attention.
Evenings of Wonder – Real Lives. Extraordinary Stories is a thrilling new paperback book written by Manx author Sue King which chronicles the exploits of 19th century circus personalities on the Isle of Man. In the Victorian era the island was a hugely popular holiday destination, especially with workers from the north of England, and this gave circuses plenty of scope to develop their acts, from humble acrobatics to death-defying stunts. In these vivid stories, which range from 1802 to 1896 and move from cramped yards to vast hippodromes, readers can not only learn about the lives of some incredible real-life characters but also experience the thrilling sights, sounds and smells of live entertainment, Victorian-style. Set against an atmospheric backdrop of ‘old’ Douglas Evenings of Wonder is a careful blend of fact and fiction in which all the named characters, events and locations are factual, while the narrative has been fictionalised to lend the book the energy and colourful atmosphere of early circus. Although the majority of these itinerant performers were British some came from America and each chapter features postscripts which give an idea of what happened to them when they left the Isle of Man.
Sue King (author of ‘A Weaver’s Tale – The story of the Laxey Woollen Industry’ and ‘A Little Book of Laxey’) says the idea for the book came after she stumbled across references to large circus buildings in the centre of Douglas and further investigation made her realise how little has been documented about this aspect of Manx entertainment history. Many years of digging followed, exploring international circus archives, talking to circus families and trawling through thousands of newspaper articles. The resulting book covers a wide spectrum of circus life and performance with each chapter highlighting a particular theme – equestrian, clowning, trapeze, circus architecture and so on.
The stunning cover, representing one of the acts detailed in the book, is by well-known Manx graphic artist Ruth Sutherland.