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Church of Marvels | Leslie Parry | Review

*Review copy provided by Hachette Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Image from GoodReads. 

It's 1895 New York. Four people, each searching for something, find their lives intertwining in Leslie Parry's Church of Marvels. Twin sisters Odile and Belle Church have been brought up in The Church of Marvels, a circus troupe, which burnt to the ground, their mother inside. One day Belle leaves, leaving only a note. Odile sets out on a journey from Coney Island to the city to find out what happened, why she left, and to bring her home.

As Sylvan cleans out the privies behind houses, he discovers a baby girl, left alone in the cold. He rescues her, knowing what it's like to be an orphan, and his search begins for her mother.

Alphie finds herself locked away in an insane asylum, in which she is sure her mother-in-law is responsible for. One day she meets a strange speechless girl who produces hidden scissors from her throat. A move which may destroy them, or save them both.

As the lives of these four individuals begin to entwine, the connections are made and the secrets start to spill forth. Written in third person from three of the characters' perspectives, alternating chapters, Church of Marvels is a wonderfully written book with fantastic language and imagery throughout. It's a story of love and loss, of hardship and pain, of family, of loneliness, of turn-of-the-century New York.

This was an interesting read for me. I found myself immediately drawn into the story, and enjoyed each introduction to the characters as the chapters went by. But somewhere in the middle I got a bit lost at times, and found that sometimes the abundance of prose and lack of dialogue for pages and pages on end was hard to read; I suspect I possibly missed a key sentence or two because of it. The story, however, was really interesting, and I did like how all the characters eventually connected. It did take a while, probably the last quarter of the book, but I did enjoy it more and got into to it a bit more when they did connect, after the slow going in the middle there. I enjoyed reading a book set in the late 1800s though, as I don't usually read novels from that period.

If you're after a story that is "The Night Circus meets Water for Elephants" (thanks, GoodReads, though I haven't read either of those yet - they're on my list), a story that is beautifully written and full of intense characters, pick up a copy of Church of Marvels. It was published in May this year, and is already receiving great reviews. Also...just look at that beautiful cover! Love it!


  1. This us such a spot on review. I AGREE WITH ALL OF THE ABOVE.

  2. Haha! Thanks, Katie! Just read your review of it! We pretty much thought the same things haha :D


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