To celebrate my new Victorian gothic novel entering the Sunday Times Best Seller List at number 10, I'd like to post a very short reading from the first pages of The Fascination. But first of all, here is a brief description of what the novel is about...
A world of rural fairgrounds and glamorous London theatres.
A world of dark secrets and deadly obsessions…
My new Victorian gothic novel is called The Fascination. It was published on June 22nd and became an instant Sunday Times Best Seller.
It's a book that became very important to me - being about finding acceptance in a world where anyone different is at risk of scorn or abuse, or used for entertainment purposes. The story has settings in the Victorian rural fairgrounds, the glamour of the London theatres, and an anatomy museum in a shop in Oxford Street, based on one that did exist, which you can read about here. The plot surrounds twin sisters, Tilly and Keziah Lovell, identical in every way except that one of them stopped growing at the age of only five ... and in due course her size and beauty draws a lot of attention; not all of it desirable.
I've written a few posts already that detail some of my research. One of them was about Princess Lottie, a tiny midget of a woman who found fame in touring 'freak shows', drew the attention of Karen Coles when I posted it on Twitter. Karen wrote to me with photos from an album in her family - one that was presented to her great great grandmother back in the Victorian era.
|Barnum and General Tom Thumb|
When I saw the photographs I noticed something familiar - recognising Charles Stratton who performed as General Tom Thumb in P T Barnum's touring circus, and who I've written about previously on the Virtual Victorian. How and why Karen's relation came to be in possession of the photographs is something of a mystery, but what a historical treasure. And a dedication from Stratton himself!
The Fascination is published on June 22 by Orenda Books. Pre-order from the publisher, via Amazon, or through your local bookshop. There are really beautiful special signed copies for the independent bookshops, and the novel will be featured as the book of the month for the Goldsboro Books June Premier edition. The audio book will be narrated by Lucy Scott.
|Photograph by Sarah Whittingham, from a display at Sambourne House, in London|
|An advertisement for the Southampton Turkish Bath|
In 2010 the RA in London exhibited the work of Vincent Van Gogh, with the artwork being complemented by some of the countless letters he wrote during his adult life. Many of those letters showed quite a different side to the character captured in history - that of a tortured depressive who pickled himself in absinthe, cut off his ear in a spate of passion after an argument with Gaugin, and finally shot himself in the chest in a badly bungled suicide, after which he took two days to die.
As a young man he found employment was with a firm of art dealers; his profession taking him to England and Paris. But a series of disappointing love affairs, along with an increasing dissatisfaction with the unscrupulous art world led him to contemplate life as a preacher - the same profession as his father.