An expansive exploration of friendship and discrimination set within the historic world of Australian circus, The Magpie’s Sister matches lots into its 325 pages. With nods in direction of influences as disparate as Joseph ‘Elephant Man’ Merrick and Cyrano de Bergerac, Kerri Turner tells the story of Maggie Vivid, a younger girl with a facial distinction brought on by tumours, and her life as an integral a part of a travelling circus within the early 1900s.
Regardless of discovering her performing function restricted to showing because the ‘Lagoon Creature’, Maggie is definitely higher off than many with perceived variations on the time, made clear when she visits a carnival and sees the distressing actuality of the folks in there designated as ‘freaks’ and spending their days being gazed at, and poked and prodded by curious or hostile crowds.
Maggie, then again, is an important and valued a part of the circus and has a beautiful and supportive relationship with the ringmaster Rafferty, who has additionally helped together with her training and trusts her implicitly.
The narrative thrust of the novel revolves round Maggie’s difficult friendship with the attractive funambulist, Charlotte, which begins one night time when the 2 younger girls exit in town and wind up inebriated and making the rash choice to get themselves tattoos. When Maggie then overhears Charlotte talking dismissively of her she assumes she’s once more dealing with the rejection to which she has change into accustomed all through her life. However Charlotte has hidden private challenges too.
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In the meantime there are different members of the circus who’ve their very own issues, with Turner paying explicit consideration to the double requirements that apply when it comes migrants eager to dwell in Australia and the way a white pores and skin has historically obtained preferential therapy. It’s a prejudice and systemic bias that Turner is clearly reminding us stays in place at present, although maybe not as overtly.
With subplots revolving round Maggie taking it upon herself to conduct an epistolary relationship with an admirer of Charlotte’s (the Cyrano allusion), the disparate lives of the opposite members of the circus household, and revelations of the backgrounds and formative experiences of each Maggie and Charlotte, Turner is ready to create a convincing and detailed historic world, however view it by a twenty first century lens steeped in consciousness of sexual, racial and incapacity discrimination.
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The analysis is complete and engaging, portray a reputable portrait of life on the street for circus people of the interval, but it surely’s the characters that give the novel its energy. Essentially, Turner is stressing how some folks’s challenges are not possible to cover – they’re written on their pores and skin, whether or not that be by color or bodily distinction. However for others, who could seem on the floor to have a charmed and straightforward life, it might merely be that their traumas and tragedies are on the within sheltered from view. And the way Maggie and Charlotte ultimately come to know one another’s views and deepest truths is actually relatively fantastically and compassionately instructed.
The Magpie’s Sister by Kerri TurnerPublisher: Echo PublishingISBN: 9781760687878Format: paperbackPages: 325ppRRP: $32.99Publication date: 2 Might 2023