Title: We Are All His Creatures: Tales of P. T. Barnum, the Greatest Showman
Author: Deborah Noyes
Release Date: March 10th 2020
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: Historical Fiction, Short Stories
Goodreads Rating: 2.00 (of 2 ratings)
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In a series of interwoven fictionalized stories, Deborah Noyes gives voice to the marginalized women in P. T. Barnum’s family — and the talented entertainers he built his entertainment empire on.
Much has been written about P. T. Barnum — legendary showman, entrepreneur, marketing genius, and one of the most famous nineteenth-century personalities. For those who lived in Barnum’s shadow, however, life was complex. P. T. Barnum’s two families — his family at home, including his two wives and his daughters, and his family at work, including Little People, a giantess, an opera singer, and many sideshow entertainers — suffered greatly from his cruelty and exploitation. Yet, at the same time, some of his performers, such as General Tom Thumb (Charles Stratton), became wealthy celebrities who were admired and feted by presidents and royalty. In this collection of interlinked stories illustrated with archival photographs, Deborah Noyes digs deep into what is known about the people in Barnum’s orbit and imagines their personal lives, putting front and center the complicated joy and pain of what it meant to be one of Barnum’s “creatures.”
Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of Candlewick Press. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book.
This was…odd? I really don’t know quite what to do with this book. I tried to give this a really good go, but halfway through, I just had to call it quits.
I feel like the worst part is I could never fully grasp what was going on. I felt like all the logic and things that would make sense was just out of reach and I was on a treadmill running toward it, never able to wrap my arms around it. I still can’t fully process what I read. There were things and there were characters and there were actions, but I honestly couldn’t put them altogether to complete the picture. I JUST DON’T GET IT – ANY OF IT.
The writing was also quite…I don’t quite know how to explain it. Yes, it was straightforward, but it was almost too atmospheric? I’m not sure that even makes sense. Whenever I think of this book, it just puts me in a really depressed, dark head space? The material wasn’t even really that dark, but I just get bad vibes when I think about it.
I do applaud Noyes for trying to shine a light on the marginalized voices that were in the circus. I had thought this was going to be true short stories, but I certainly didn’t use my reading powers for good and actually read the summary properly. However, it painted an interesting and insightful light on the horrible conditions that women and anyone considered different faced back then (and even now).
Another big issue that I had with the story was the short stories themselves. I didn’t really understand the point of them. Usually with a short story, at the end of it, you will have learned a lesson or discovered a moral within it. However, these seemed like just random snippets of every day life that would try to come to culmination that never really resonated for me to anything. I suppose I just wanted a meaning to what I just read – however, I mean, I was just really really confused throughout the read so maybe there was and I just got lost.
So…I think I’m going to end it here before I get pulled too far down the rabbit hole, and say I was confused one more time.
rating: Snow White
representation: DNFed, so I don’t have an accurate representation of what is in the book
content warnings: emotional abuse – DNFed so I don’t have an accurate representation of what is in the book
read this if you: if you want to see more about the women/other diverse voices behind the curtain of one of the most famous circuses
What do you think? Let’s discuss in the comments below!