The Electrical Venus

By Hilary Mayhew

Young Quills reviews

The Electrical VenusRosie M. (13)'s review
The Electrical Venus is a book about Mim, a poor girl who works as a part of the circus with her friends who were more like family as she lived with and known them all her life. She is constantly looking for answers to questions she has puzzled over throughout the book. Especially the question: What is love?

I loved this book for many reasons: one of them being the way the story is told. It is told in the point of view of three people Mim, Alex and a narrator with no bias. I liked this because each new paragraph you get a new look on the particular situation.

Mim, to me, is the most interesting character because we see her changing how she sees people and who she wants to be. She knew that she loved Alex all along but when a richer man came along, she thought she had fallen in love. Although she had a much better standard of living, she returned to her old ways to be with her true love.

My least favourite character was Sebastian Fox, Mim’s fake love interest. I don’t like him because he led Mim on making her think the only reason he wanted to marry her and spend so much time with her was because he loved her and wanted to teach her, but he was using her as a test subject in a new experiment – to see if he could change a poor, unimportant, circus girl into a well learned wife.

At the start of the book it was mostly light hearted with Mim and Alex being playful and friendly but further in to the book it became more serious with more tension between the main characters. By the end, when everything was resolved, it returned to its light-hearted roots.

This book has made me more interested in the Georgian era, in the social higher achy the slightly different way of speaking.

I would recommend this book to everyone in my class, even if they didn’t like history, just for the different way of story-telling.

Esme (13)'s review
The Electrical Venus by Julie Mayhew is definitely not one of my favourite books. I found it quite boring. One of the reasons that I found it boring was that none of the characters, I felt, had any personality. I got halfway through before I couldn't pick it up again.

I was disappointed when I read this because one of my friends had read it and said it was one of the best books she had ever read. I can’t work out what she liked about it.

Even though I did not like the book, I learnt that if a lady were to show her ankle it would have been considered very provocative.

I would not recommend this book to another pupil.

Clement's review
Which of the characters did you find most interesting and why?

Which of the characters (if any) were not attractive – why?
The character of Mim and Alex never did click, greatly owing to the lack of a definitive characterization and the plot which is a slow burn that is overstretched. Both protagonists are introduced as performers in a show, struggling from the social context, yet there is nothing implanted in them neither individually or together as a couple that draws readers’ interest. This makes the ending feel forced and devoid of planning. The character of Mr Fox also doesn’t quite hit the mark, despite having a relatable backstory which is revealed too later on when the interest value has died out already throughout his lengthy meandering presence in the story, removing any interests of readers.

Did you learn anything new about the past from the book?
No. I only knew about the book from the selected book list.

What made the history or the time it was set in interesting to you?
The injustice of social hierarchy. The struggles of women and lower classes forms a good basis for the book and the backstory of most of the characters.

Is this a period of history you knew much about beforehand?

Was the plot exciting, thought-provoking, serious or light-hearted (or any combination of these)? Did this make a difference to whether or not the book was interesting/enjoyable to read?
The slow-burn of the plot feels stretched out, with minimal actions and real thematic meaning throughout most of the book. Along with the lack of characterization as said above, the already little interest of the book is squeezed empty. The historical backdrop and social status isn’t well utilised as well, under the lackluster of the majority of the plot. This results in the ending being forced, abrupt, and feeling not well planned out. The language, however, is sophisticated and complex, which provided much detail to characters, but that still doesn’t compensate for the major flaws.

Has the book inspired you or made you want to know more about anything?
It has in terms of the poverty and oppression depicted despite not fully realized and put into motion. It is the historical background in the first place that had me intrigued however, not the story of the book.

Would you recommend it to other students – why?
No, the book is a lacklustre devoid of characterisation, meaning in plot, realisation of the historical backdrop. The language is the only appreciable bit, but with the huge flaws, overall meaning to the story still can’t be conveyed.

Oliver's review
Out of the four books, I personally believe that this was the worst book, for a variety of reasons. This is primarily because I was predominantly reading this book either very early in the morning or very late at night, when I was tired, so obviously the supposed magic and “electrickery” of the book completely washed over me. I was reading reviews on the internet for inspiration and they seemed to praise the book very highly, saying it was a well-researched historical novel, ambitious and immersive. However, this book is an incredibly difficult read for not only is the language and structure unnecessarily awkward but the story is told from three different perspectives, including an omniscient narrator, which doesn’t particularly make any sense. It’s as if the author couldn’t make up her mind.

In addition, the plot is tedious, strangely romantic and unoriginal, and nothing really happens in the book. For huge amounts of time, the concept is carrying the story, as opposed to the writing itself. One positive, on the other hand, is the ending that is both unexpected and mysterious yet also satisfying and realistic, something rarely found in books. Nevertheless, I cannot recommend this book, especially to 14-year-old boys.

Diya's review
This book is set in the times of Georgian England, a historical world, where a young girl called Mim stands out from the crowd due to her “exotic” skin colour. She, along with a one-armed boy called Alex, have to earn their keep in a travelling sideshow. This book is set in three different points of view, where the two main protagonists (Mim and Alex) talk, in a way, to animals. The animal that they are talking to change throughout the book as the storyline progresses, which is an appealing touch as it recognises the changes in the story. Mim struggles to find her worth as an act. Her parrot has more worth than her. However, that all changes when the scholarly Mr Fox shows up. He brings with him promises of new hope, and also crushes Alex’s dream of being a rope act with Mim, as Mr Fox’s act is far more elaborate, using science and electricity to astound the audience. Men push and shove to receive a shocking kiss from Mim’s lips. Meanwhile, Alex is cast aside, running errands for Mr Fox and the new “star”. Then, Mr Fox and Mim run away together, leaving little to nothing for the sideshow. However, all is well when Mim leaves Mr Fox and comes back. Alex’s dream is fulfilled. The story ends with describing an act at the end starring Mim and Alex, binding together both science, and love.

I thoroughly enjoyed the thrill of this book, and the fact that it embraced those with disabilities and those who have a different skin colour. It brings awareness to racial discrimination, which is a good point. However, there were some graphic elements to the book, including bad language. A way to improve this would be to put a warning on the front cover, so that any younger people would not accidentally pick it up and begin to read it, not understanding what was happening in the book. I really enjoyed the storyline of the book. It was extremely captivating and put you on the edge of your seat. A thing I really love in books is when the tension is built up. It is thrilling to anticipate and guess what will happen next.

Overall, this book is magical, and I highly recommend it to older viewers. It truly is a magnificent piece of writing.

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