I have never been a fan of circuses, especially ones that use (and sometimes badly mistreat) animals. However, one of my favorite books of all time, Amanda Davis's Wonder When You'll Miss Me, is a novel about a young woman who literally runs away to the circus, and the picture that Davis paints of life with the itinerant performers matches in my head what I see in the gorgeous images in Taschen's massive new book The Circus, 1870-1950. There are glamorous, strong women and acts of bravery, but above all the performers seem to exhibit a sense of real belonging to their very unusual family. Nell Gifford, owner of the Gloucestershire Giffords Circus, weighs in with her perspective:
I have to admit I can see the attraction. No trained snakes for me though, on account of my severe phobia.