The Victorian age brought about the strange concept of “the freak show” in both the United States and across Europe. While attendees were fascinated by physical oddities, they often forgot about the person behind the display. General Tom Thumb was just 25 inches tall and had a family of his own. The world’s largest man was incredibly shy about his body, but knew this was how he could make a living. Historian John Woolf takes readers into the histories of those who have been forgotten in everything but their physical features and has given them their rich histories back. In The Wonders he is careful to show how these incredible performers were often exploited and how many had difficulties making a living any other way.
This book does feature some pretty sad histories, so be prepared. I for one had no idea that people of small stature were often given to royalty or members of nobility as gifts. People would literally gift their children. One was even presented to a queen in a pie shell (he was alive and the crust was cool).
If you want to know the people behind the moniker “freak show,” The Wonders is an incredible book to pick up.
The Wonders is available from Pegasus Books November 5, 2019.