The Electrical Venus by Julie Mayhew
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication date: 19 April 2018
Genre: Young adult historical fiction
Page count: 288 pages
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
I received this book in exchange for an honest review. This review is spoiler-free.
The Electrical Venus jumped out at me because it is historical young adult fiction — something I don’t think you see very often. On top of that, the book is set in Georgian England, which is even more of a rarity in YA. Although I didn’t know much about it, I decided to give it a shot.
Can this shocking new feeling be love, or is it electrickery?
In a lowly side-show fair in eighteenth-century England, teenager Mim is struggling to find her worth as an act. Not white, but not black enough to be truly exotic, her pet parrot who speaks four languages is a bigger draw than her. But Alex, the one-armed boxer boy, sees her differently. And she, too, feels newly interested in him.
But then Dr Fox arrives with his scientific kit for producing ‘electrickery’ – feats of electrical magic these bawdy audiences have never seen before. To complete his act, Fox chooses Mim to play the ‘Electrical Venus’. Her popularity – and the electric-shocking kisses she can provide for a penny – mean takings are up, slop is off the menu and this spark between her and Fox must surely be love.
But is this starring role her true worth, or is love worth more than a penny for an electrifying kiss?
An intoxicating and atmospheric coming of age story set in the filth and thrill of a travelling show during the height of the Georgian Enlightenment.
To be perfectly honest, this book was just not for me. The writing style, the characters, and the story are all just things that I don’t particularly enjoy in books. However, don’t let that sway you because I do think that many people will enjoy The Electrical Venus.
I really liked the fact that this is a historical novel set in an unusual time period for YA. Young adult books can get a little same-y after awhile and it’s so nice to see something fresh and new! It’s an interesting period in time and the inclusion of Doctor Fox and his electricity machine really took advantage of that in the best way. What seems very normal to us would have been a marvel to people of this time and it suited the sideshow setting very well.
I thought the narrative style was interesting, even if it didn’t work for me. There are two point of view characters in this book — Mim and Alex. Each chapter is told as though they’re speaking to one of the animals in the sideshow’s menagerie. Mim talks to her parrot, who was came with her when Mr. Grainger bought her, while Alex talks to the pig in the menagerie. It was a little strange at first, but you get used to it pretty quickly.
The inclusion of Mim, a mixed race black girl, was refreshing, as some people seem to think that black people just didn’t exist at this period in time — you rarely get to see diverse casts in historical fiction. She was an interesting character, along with Alex, but I don’t think they’re the kinds of characters I particularly like, nor had the type of romance I usually enjoy. I am a big fan of slow burning romance, which we have in this book, however I don’t like the fact that their issues could have been resolved if they just spoke to each other. The two fight and make up constantly and this just isn’t really my thing.
Overall, The Electrical Venus didn’t really click with me. It’s a hard book to review for that exact reason. However, if you’re looking for books that deal with sex, young romance, or falling for the wrong person, this is a great title to pick up. I think it’s unusual historical setting is very appealing and it’s a fast read.
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Have you read The Electrical Venus? I’d really love to know what you think!