I had no idea that this was based on a true person. It really does make this a fascinating story. Although knowing it is based on a true person does make some of the writing bother me. I was appalled by a line in the book that said Julia (the main character) squirted lemon juice in her eyes to brighten them. Now, Julia was a carnival curiosity, an "ape woman" a "freak". but in reality she was just a woman with some birth defects. No human would purposely squirt lemon juice in their eye! I realize that Ms. Birch's words are fiction, but I think she could have found a better way to describe her getting "pretty".
Julia married Theo her "manager". He was a total jerk and did so many things that will make you want to strangle him! I don't want to spoil anything, so you must read if you want to realize what a creep he was! Julia spent her life being exploited by people, especially her husband. She was not even able to protect the one she loved most in the world. Even in death, she was treated like property, and treated very badly!!
This story will make you realize that the way Carnival performers were treated, was not okay. How sad for these people that they had to be treated inhumane! They were preyed upon and exploited for defects in their appearance that they were born with, and had no control over.
If you would like to read about the real Julia, you can check out this article http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2277608/Ape-woman-Julia-Pastrana-buried-150-years-Body-Ugliest-Woman-World-returns-Mexico.html
The problem that I had with the story was that the modern characters were not interesting. I did not care about them. I understand why their story was told, but I also know that the story did not need them to succeed. I feel that the story would have been better without the modern part of the story. Rose's story was not nearly as well written as Julia's. That ending just made me even more sad for Theo Jr. Since we do not know this as truth, it felt even more mean spirited. Without this part of the story, this would have been a five star read, one with a few problems, but still a wonderful story.
*Thank you to Carol Birch, NetGalley, and the publisher for allowing me access to an uncorrected e-arc of this novel in exchange for an honest review.