Dreaming Of The Big Top

The Girl Who Walked On Air

The bigger the danger, the bigger the crowd.

The name Emma Carroll was one that jumped out at me from the blogosphere a couple of months ago and after reading The Girl Who Walked On Air, I am so thankful that it did. If, like me, you grew up with the narrative voices of Dick King Smith and Enid Blyton then please take a look at this modern reincarnation, for Carroll’s way with words is not just nostalgically charming but also beautifully fresh.

The Girl Who Walked On Air takes a peek behind the greasepaint and sequins of Mr Chipchase’s Victorian circus and steps into the world of a wannabe performer. Louie has been waiting her whole life for the opportunity to walk the high wire. Ever since her mother left her on the tent-step of the circus, she’s been dreaming of Showstopper status but Mr Chipchase will not hear of it. Determined not to spend the rest of her days shut away in the ticket office, Louie decides to follow her heart. But the man with the tall hat and the opportunity he is offering may not be quite what Louie had in mind…

The care and attention to detail Carroll has put into this enchanting novel is clear right from the off and the narrative very quickly surrounds you, drawing you into the circus-life of Louie. The distinctiveness of Victorian circus culture (and with it their complete lack of health and safety fears!) allows for a gritty and eye-opening story where each trick has to top the last and the infamous “whiff of danger” is integral to success.

Louie is a fantastic female protagonist who follows her own rules and strives to achieve her dream. The focus of the story is on her journey, her undiscovered talent and her past and she certainly is a force to be reckoned with. The drive she has to defy her social status and standing within her circus community makes her a strong female lead but she is soft and warm too – a character to identify with. Carroll’s strength lies within her characterisation, not just Louie but all of her characters. They jump off the page and perform perfectly ¬– you even come to love the ones you hate!

Carroll has managed to stay true to her tale without compromising the age of the audience – there are whispers of the sinister and suspense is built perfectly but the story isn’t dark YA. The Girl Who Walked On Air is perfect for pre-teen readers and above – as a twenty-something year-old I genuinely devoured and loved this book and have added Carroll to my must-read author list and lovers of Rundell, Cabot, Burnett and Wilson should be adding Carroll to their bookshelves as soon as they can as well!

4 star

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