City of Circles is, at its heart, a novel about love and grief.
Danu is a young circus girl, whose parents die at the beginning of City of Circles. Taken into the caravan of Mag and Sandy, an aging pair of contortionists who were her parents’ closest friends, we see her growing up as a lonely and introverted young woman. Determined to overcome her grief, but believing that she should have died with her parents, she persuades Morrie, a charismatic hunchback, to teach her to tightrope walk. While travelling from town to town, they develop a series of humorous acts about the tragic love stories of mis-matched animals and birds.
When I started writing this novel in 2013, my long-term relationship ended, and I no longer believed in love.
As she reaches adulthood, Danu is determined to keep her heart to herself, but Morrie is in love with her. She is torn – partly wanting him, partly fearing him. When the circus arrive in her birthplace, the magical city of circles: Matryoshka, Danu is enchanted by its spice mists, strange characters and hidden alleyways. As Morrie puts pressure on her to marry him, Danu escapes into Matryoshka each night, intoxicated by its spice-scented air, chasing a feeling of fate. There is someone here she knows she has to meet. They might be just around the next corner.
Half-way through writing this novel, I fell in love with someone who lived on the other side of the world.
As Morrie leaves with the circus, Danu remains in Matryoshka, searching for a stranger she might never be able to find. She breaks into a derelict house which has an unsettling atmosphere, and sleeps in the attic under a broken roof. She explores the circles of Matryoshka thoughtfully, learning more about herself as she discovers the secrets of the remarkable city. In a world of tarot cards, stage magicians, ethereal travel and predictions, Danu sees Death, dressed in feathers, and thinks it has come to take back her borrowed time. Morrie discovers that something is wrong with Danu, and chases against a storm of three curses to get back to Matryoshka in time to save her.
I moved from Scotland to New Zealand where I finished writing this novel, and married my partner in 2016.
Does Danu really need to be saved? She’s been lonely all her life, and has always survived… perhaps all she really needs, all any of us really need, is to love and be loved.
Read an extract of the novel here.
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Once you’ve finished reading City of Circles, join our conversation! We’ve listed 5 questions below that you can answer. Anyone is able to participate by commenting on this blog post, or by using the hashtag #easyezireads on social media.
Book Club Questions:
– Did you find the book easy to get into?
– What do you think of the setting of the book? Did you like the fictitious setting, why or why not?
– What did you think about the change in perspective? Do you think that introducing a different point of view so far though the book helped or hindered the story?
– How did the characters change throughout the story and did this change the way you thought of them?
– Was the ending satisfying? Do you wish it had turned out different?
Let us know what you thought of City of Circles by Jess Richards in the comments below or comment on social media with the hashtag #easyezireads
Are you looking for more books to read? Check out our previous Easy Reads Book Club books here.
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See the Jess Richards website here for more information about her and her other novels.