by Stephens Gerard Malone
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Pub Date 12 Sep 2023 | Archive Date 13 Jun 2023
Nimbus Publishing, Vagrant Press
There was, perhaps, no living creature more famous in the nineteenth century than Jumbo the elephant. Born in 1860 and taken from the wilds between Sudan and Eritrea at the age of two, he was sold to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, and then to the London Zoological Gardens, before becoming the prized possession of notorious American showman P. T. Barnum. “Jumbomania” swept England, embroiled the Houses of Parliament, erupted into open warfare in the British and American press, and monopolized popular kitsch and culture. By the time Jumbo sailed into New York City in 1882, thousands scrambled for a chance to see “The Sun of the Amusement World.”
In this magnificent feat of historical fiction, Jumbo’s story is told by Little Eyes Nell Kelly, The World’s Smallest Singing, Dancing, Horse-riding Woman and Barnum’s star attraction. Initially jealous of her gargantuan new co-star, Nell keeps a close eye on Jumbo and his reclusive and dedicated trainer, Matthew Scott. But Nell soon realizes that she and Jumbo are simply two caged creatures in a circus full—and Jumbo’s confinement is slowly killing him. As The Greatest Show on Earth criss-crosses North America, Nell must brave greedy circus showmen, backstabbing trapeze artists, and the relentless pursuit of the cruel animal trainer, Elephant Bill, to keep the curtain from closing on her career—and her very life.
Taking readers from the deserts of Sudan to Buckingham Palace, to the manor houses of Connecticut and the dizzying heights of the Brooklyn Bridge, and every “one-saloon-three-church town” in between, Jumbo is a menagerie of riotous colour that brings Jumbo’s incredible story to life, and a masterful novel that explores exploitation, unrequited love, and the unbreakable bond between living things.
“In Jumbo, Stephens Gerard Malone takes us backstage at the circus as well as deep into the recesses of the human heart. A story of the world’s tiniest woman and the world’s largest elephant, Malone’s deeply felt novel examines greed and cruelty, love and compassion, interspecies abuse and the tenacity of survivors. Moving, tender, and tough, Malone unwraps the Jumbo of myth and creates an unforgettable world. I loved this novel.”
–Beth Powning, bestselling author of The Sea Captain’s Wife