Book Review – Bacchanal by Veronica G Henry

First published, 1st June 2021 – I know, get me

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Something wicked is travelling with a touring carnival in Depression-era America. Among the stilt walkers, oddities and games of chance, is a red trailer that almost no one is allowed inside, and it has piqued the interest of new carnival-worker and animal communicator/trainer, Liza.

Having been deserted by her parents and torn away from her sweethearted little sister, Twiggy, Liza joins the carnival to practise her skill, because talking to animals is all well and good – as long as they survive. But as friendships develop and with romance in the air, will Liza ever get back to Twiggy? And will she find out what’s happening in the red trailer before another child disappears?

I really enjoyed this debut novel from Veronica G Henry. The characters are well-drawn, the story is rich and complex, and the writing is strong.

I especially liked strongman, Bombadier. I won’t throw out any spoilers here, but this description was a delight:

“He had not been a shy man, even then. His tongue wielded his strongly accented French English and Wolof like an invitation to a world in which he was the center, the light, the opening and closing attractions. He’d fallen in easily with the other men, while she – the American – was seen as the strange one. But it was his smile, his deep throaty laughter, that had won her over.”
71% in, Chapter Thirty-One, Reckonings, Bacchanal by Veronica G Henry

I wasn’t sure I would like it to begin with, on account of some of the more famous and binge-watched depictions of carnivals that have cropped up on television in recent years (I’m thinking particularly of American Horror Story: Freak Show, which I adored). However, this book holds its own admirably. There are some beautiful descriptions and every time I thought I knew what was coming next, I was dead wrong.