Orphans of the Carnival

11 CDs. 12:75 hrs. HighBridge. Nov. 2016. ISBN 9781681682587. $34.99. F
Despite her apish features and a covering of thick, dark hair over most of her body, Julia is both a marvel and an oddity. Fluent in English, French, and Spanish and an accomplished singer and dancer, eventually she signs a contract with producer Theodore Lent, a charming showman who understands Julia's talents and her allure to the public. This novel offers an unusual and personal look at the often lonely, nomadic life of those who were once disdained as "freaks of nature." The author explores questions of humanity, belonging, and family. Breaking up the historical narrative is a modern tale of a troubled woman who collects cast-off items and discards boyfriends when they get too close. This format is ultimately ineffectual. Although the two tales intertwine and resolve themselves into one coherent narrative, the modern story is too slight to be compelling. It inhibits rather than enriches the far more poignant primary tale. The uneven audio performance by Heather Wilds also detracts from the novel's emotional impact. Lacking an appealing tone and pacing variation, the performer's formal and stilted style is often at odds with the characters and action portrayed. Almost all the main characters other than Julia are interpreted as angry or uncaring, thus leaving little room for listeners to come to their own conclusions about motivation.
VERDICT A secondary purchase for larger collections, though readers interested in performance or stage history will find the main story line intriguing. ["Memorable and affecting": LJ 11/15/16 review of the Doubleday hc.]

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