About the Book:
New York, 1897. The richest city in the world.
Beautiful, young and privileged, Rose Kingsbury Smith is expected to play by the strict rules of social etiquette, to forfeit all career aspirations and to marry a man of good means. But she has a quietly rebellious streak and is determined to make her own mark on Manhattan’s growing skyline. When the theft of a precious heirloom plunges the Kingsbury Smiths into financial ruin, Rose becomes her family’s most tradeable asset. She finds herself fighting for her independence and championing the ideal of equality for women everywhere.
Enigmatic Ethan Salt’s inglorious circus days are behind him. He lives a quiet life on Coney Island with his beloved elephant Daisy and is devoted to saving animals who’ve been brutalised by show business. As he struggles to raise funds for his menagerie, he fears he will never build the sanctuary of his dreams … until a chance encounter with a promising young architect changes his life forever.
Just when Rose is on the verge of seeing her persistence pay off, the ghosts of her past threaten to destroy everything she holds dear. In the face of heartbreaking prejudice and betrayal, she must learn to harness her greatest wonder within.
From Fifth Avenue mansions to Lower East Side tenements and the carnivals of Coney Island, The Eighth Wonder explores the brilliance and brutality of one of the world’s most progressive eras and celebrates the visionaries who dare to rebel.
Published by Penguin Random House Australia – Michael Joseph
Released 2nd July 2021
This was a terrific novel, hard to believe it is a debut. The writing is so polished, the story crafted with meticulous and plausible detail, with remarkable characterisation that seemed true to the era. I even just loved the words the author used, so in keeping with the era in which her story is set. I truly felt as though I had stepped back through time.
This Gilded Age era in New York is quite an interesting period of history. It puts me in mind of Victorian London, with the wealth and industrial progress coming to clash with unionisation as the working conditions of industrial workers become increasingly untenable. The suffragette movement was beginning to gain ground in terms of providing places for women to attend that offered education, health and hygiene services. I liked also the mention of the A.S.P.C.A. who were working to protect the welfare of ‘beasts of burden’, in particular, horses. You don’t often see this issue of horse welfare popping up in historical fiction but horses were literally worked to death, pulling carriages and farm equipment prior to the invention of motor vehicles.
There are two key issues within this story, both of which I enjoyed immensely. With Rose, it was her quest to be more than a rich man’s wife. Specifically, an architect, and she had real talent too, but was unfortunately born into the wrong time and place. For Ethan, it was protecting his menagerie of retired/abused animals from the entertainment industry. Now, there are some slightly disturbing scenes in terms of animal abuse within the context of rescue. I didn’t find these gratuitous in any way, but they did make me flinch. Ethan was a wonderful character, I really loved his bond with animals, particularly Daisy the elephant, of course. I have a weakness for elephants.
The Eighth Wonder is an excellent novel, the very best kind of historical fiction where you are immersed entirely into another era for the duration. I loved the originality of it, the rich atmosphere and the authentic characters. This one was a real treat.
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy and the invitation to participate in the blog tour.