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A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington

a girl made of airTitle: A Girl Made of Air

Author: Nydia Hetherington

Genre: Historical Fiction, Folklore, Myth, Magical Realism

Publisher: Hachette/Quercus

Published: 8th September 2020

Format: Paperback

Pages: 376

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: A lyrical debut packed with myth, magic and folklore, perfect for fans of Erin Morgenstern and Angela Carter

‘A captivating tale of love and loss and finding connection in the most unexpected places’ Nikki Marmery, author of On Wilder Seas

A lyrical and atmospheric homage to the strange and extraordinary, perfect for fans of Angela Carter and Erin Morgenstern.

This is the story of The Greatest Funambulist Who Ever Lived…

Born into a post-war circus family, our nameless star was unwanted and forgotten, abandoned in the shadows of the big top. Until the bright light of Serendipity Wilson threw her into focus.

Now an adult, haunted by an incident in which a child was lost from the circus, our narrator, a tightrope artiste, weaves together her spellbinding tales of circus legends, earthy magic and folklore, all in the hope of finding the child… But will her story be enough to bring the pair together again?

Beautiful and intoxicating, A GIRL MADE OF AIR brings the circus to life in all of its grime and glory; Marina, Manu, Serendipity Wilson, Fausto, Big Gen and Mouse will live long in the hearts of readers. As will this story of loss and reconciliation, of storytelling and truth.


Beginning with an interview transcript in 1983, A Girl Made from Air is told through the eyes of a nameless narrator, referred to at times as Mouse, and is known worldwide as The Greatest Funambulist Who Ever Lived. She lived her life in a post-war circus, with parents who forgot her, and left her to her own devices. Until the arrival of Serendipity Wilson, whose presence and Manx fairy tales will change the circus, and the life of the narrator forever.

As an adult, the narrator is haunted by events of her childhood, and she appears to be writing a memoir – whether for her or someone else, it is unclear. She’s searching for a missing child at the same time, and this is woven throughout her story and Serendipity’s stories, the tales that sustained the narrator as a child. The narrator speaks directly to the reader, inviting us into her world, but on her terms, and only telling us what she chooses to tell. This perhaps makes her unreliable, yet this is after all her story, and there is always the hope that we will have the missing bits revealed at some point. This is what drives the novel and can make you want to read on – to find out if certain things are revealed, and in what way.

It has an ethereal or mystical feel. It is of this world, yet at the same time, not quite. Set between England and New York, the world is cemented in these realities, yet through the characters and themes feels like a fairy tale or world of folk tale where extraordinary and magical things happen. The circus setting is one that feels fantastical, and wondrous, a place where things out of the ordinary happen, and take people away from the mundanity of everyday life. For our narrator, this is everyday life though, made richer and more intriguing when she meets Serendipity.

The almost conversational feel of some parts of the book speaks to the sense that the narrator is writing a memoir, or long-form letter to someone. But we don’t know who at first and must work and read to find out. It is a unique novel that needs to be pondered and where you might need to spend a bit of time with it, to unpack what is going on and immerse yourself in this world.

This is a book for those who enjoy unusual stories, and ones that hold back a bit, and don’t sit neatly within a certain genre. This unusual book will find its audience and is one that is engaging and very readable. It won’t be for everyone, and it was a different one for me, with a change of pace. I hope this book finds its niche and audience.

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