Abigail is born with whiskers. She is treated horribly in the household. They shave her beard. Naturally, it brings "shame" to the family's' good name. The beard grows back. Her mother disappears, checking herself into a spa or something, leaving Abigail being raised by an evil housekeeper, the housekeeper's husband, and a nanny.
They hide her from society as long as they can. And when it begins to be difficult, they make the girl wear a veil. There's a fraudulent doctor and his leeches. There's a fat priest and a birdbath baptismal. There's a gypsy with a stinky concoction.
It's very sad, really, but the way this story is told...even the scathing things the housekeeper or her husband say at times...is utterly hilarious. This is something one will just have to read to see for themselves what I mean... BUT there's also some touching parts and parts that make one think.
Little Abigail grows up not seeing the rest of the world, so she doesn't know what is "normal." She believes she is. She puts beards on her dolls, ties ribbons in her whiskers. We only consider normal "normal" because people tell us what's normal. But really, who has the problem? The bearded girl or the way others look at her?
|Real Bearded Lady Annie Jones|
In the eyes of the beholder....hm?
When she's taken to a circus and handed over, we meet the snake charmer, the fat man, the twisted woman (both body and soul), the elephants, an albino elephant, Julius, a "mermaid", and enter the world of the traveling carnival. It's a family that takes care of each other and together, they make their own world. It's so much easier to survive with each other than face the hate of the world on their own. With the exception of twisted lady, everyone does their bit and then some. It's more touching scenes.
More food for thought.
The "ugliest" people can have the most beautiful of souls.
LOVED this book. I do have one quibble though and thus, I give a four-star rating instead of the five. Where the heck was the dad? When Abigail is born, he's away at war, lost in action. What war? What time period was this? I could not figure it out. At first I thought WWII, but then there was never any mentions of war on the homefront and this is, I believe, England. There is no rationing, no talk of the outside world at all in the novel. The father is gone...forever. When the girl is four, he's found and coming home, but then she's "sold". They say, "Oh, he'll never know she existed." When the man comes home, surely, even this evil housekeeper cannot expect that he won't hear one peep about the little girl his own sister met, about the daughter of his that attended school however briefly. In all of Abigail's life, her father never finds out she existed when she lived in house and hosted a family party in his own home?
Didn't buy that bit at all and some trouble with it. After she's been in public--even with a veil on--after she's fought with his own nephew, someone is bound to ask the man, "Where is Abigail?"
But...before I end this review, I leave you with a charming piece of humor from the book, so you can see just a touch of the humor found within its pages... And this line comes in a bit about the carnival packing to move to the next town. Seems the clowns can't stop juggling items long enough to pack them... What do you think the solution is?
"And so it was, with more than just a small amount of smugness and great pleasure, that Old Barty put the marauding clowns onto manure-shovelling duty."