The Candlelit Menagerie by Caraline Brown

Rating: 2.5/5

What It’s About:

Set in late eighteenth-century London, this debut novel features Lillian, a freakishly tall woman who struggles to fit into society because of her size and desire to wear trousers. Each morning, she wakes in her tiny maid’s room in a too-small bed to the sound of a lion roaring nearby, on the Strand. One day, she investigates the sound and discovers a candlelit exotic animal emporium. When she meets the lion, there is an instant bond.

At first, Lillian is repulsed by the stench and squalor, but there, in the menagerie, Lillian finds her natural home taking care of and befriending wild animals brought from around the world, stolen from their habitats, misfits like her. The menagerie, under Lillian’s management, becomes a successful attraction. It is her life’s mission… 


The Review

The Candlelit Menagerie was hard for me to rate. I wavered between a 2 star and 3 star rating. This book is promoted towards fans of The Greatest Showman and Water of Elephants, and after reading it I can understand why they might enjoy this book. To keep it short and sweet, here are some bullet points of my thoughts.

What I liked:

  • setting – menagerie in late 18th century London
  • interesting main character, Lillian
  • topics of animal exhibitions, animal care, veterinary profession

What I didn’t like:

  • didn’t really connect to any of the characters
  • the focus of the story kept fluctuating and lacked overall purpose
  • it was mostly entertaining but didn’t leave much impact on me when I finished
Final Thoughts

While this book has a unique setting and concept, there were some things left to be desired. I didn’t hate the book, but it was kind of forgettable. The Candlelit Menagerie is probably a book you would pick up on sale or just happen to come across at the library. The treatment and care of exotic animals during the time period might also be disturbing to readers.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear what you thought.



  1. Thanks for sharing this review – I always love reviews that are completely honest! The setting and concept sound pretty good, kinda gives me archaic Tall Girl vibes from the sound of it 😆 Maybe I’ll read it but keeping your thoughts in mind! 😆

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