Monday 7 June 2021

Maud's Circus by Michelle Rene

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Biographical fiction

"In a time when women were restricted in every aspect, Maud Wagner became the first female tattoo artist in North America. Maud ran away to join the circus when she was a teenager. By 1904, she was working as a contortionist at the World’s Fair when she met the famous tattoo artist, Gus Wagner. She struck a deal with him: she’d give him a date if he gave her a tattoo—and a lesson in how to create them. Along with her husband and daughter, for more than fifty years, Maud travelled the country tattooing the masses. Throughout this fictionalized biopic, we see Maud and her family manage their way through life inside the safety of their beloved circus. Each life Maud touches leaves its mark, quite literally."

From the first page we’re drawn into Maud’s ghastly home life. We rejoice as she escapes to the circus while still a young girl, and we journey with her through the years as she travels throughout the country, expanding her skills to make an excellent living as an itinerant performer in a very precarious industry.

We experience her heartbreaks and joys, meeting many memorable true-life characters along the way. 

The author’s research was excellent: I learnt a lot about the art of tattooing and the story was very well developed. The pace is maintained throughout, the writing is tight, and I enjoyed the characters.

Reviewed for Discovering Diamonds 
© Robyn Pearce
 e-version reviewed

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