Sunday, 16 December 2018

Guest Post | Hidden Colours by Nillu Nasser

Hidden Colours by Nillu Nasser blog tour

When I got an email asking if I wanted to take part in the Hidden Colours blog tour, I saw the words circus and had to jump at the chance. Honestly I really love a book with a circus setting, The Night Circus completely romanticised circus's for me, that and I used to do aerial hoop and silks meant I feel an affinity for all things circus. I just need to share with you the blurb for this book because it sounds so blooming marvelous:

Each evening, nestled in Berlin’s Treptower Park, the immigrant circus comes to life. 
When Yusuf fled Syria, he lost everything. Now the circus, with its middle-eastern flair, is the only home he knows. When the lights go on, the refugees dazzle their audience, but off-stage tensions flare. 
Ellie is passionate about the circus and drawn to its broken people. Even so, if she wants to keep her job at the newspaper, she must head up a campaign against it. 
One night, in the midst of a show, two young circus boys come to blows. With the circus at risk of closure, Ellie must convince her readers that we can have compassion for those we fear, or Yusuf will be forced to uproot again.

Hidden Colours by Nillu NasserIt sounds great right? Anyway today is my turn on the blog tour and I have a special post written by Nillu Nasser, fab five things about circus stories! Here is her post:

The first glimpse of inspiration for this novel struck me close to two years ago. It was a fleeting image in my mind: a man leaping from a trapeze in a dimly lit, shabby circus.

Now, I’m torn by my feelings about circuses, but that image was persistent. I just couldn’t shake it. The man I saw was both sad and strong. At the time, I was thinking about refugees a lot, and that’s how the seed for Hidden Colours started to grow.

The story–now making its way into the world–is about Yusuf Alam, a Syrian acrobat, Ellie Richter, a German journalist, and an imaginary immigrant circus in Berlin. A circus–filled with outsiders, dreams and danger– is the perfect metaphor for Yusuf and Ellie’s story.

1. ‘From the moment the circus materialised, it transformed the landscape. Once in full flow, the emerald grasses vibrated with the rhythm of the house band. The winds carried peculiar scents far afield.’ 
The sensory details were one of my favourite elements of writing this story. Circus stories overflow with gorgeous details. The colours are bold and striking. Performances appeal to all the senses: sound, touch, smell, sight and taste. Think popping popcorn, velvet curtains, the smell of candyfloss and sweat, the sound of the ringmaster’s bellowing or the house band. Except in Hidden Colours, I had even more fun because I drew inspiration from the Middle-East and emphasized the exotic and the strange. I wanted my circus to be other-worldly even though it is set in the real world.

2. ‘There followed a giant man, more nimble than he looked, leading a troupe of goats in a merry dance, and the goats danced in pairs, courting each other, and seemed to waltz and tango, such was their magic.’ 
For me, circus stories are a celebration of daring and creativity, with their own special blend of magic. This isn’t the magic of Harry Potter or Middle Earth. It’s the magic of confusion and oddities. Setting Hidden Colours in a circus allowed me to blur the realm of reality. Once the show begins, I wanted readers to question what is possible, to wonder whether they were witnessing magic or skill. Circus life is about sleights of hand and raw daring. Performers risk their lives to thrill the audience and each gasp or applause is testament to hours of practice and reams of courage.

3. ‘The performers forged new ties, because without each other, they had nobody. The circus had become a lifeboat, as if they were still making the treacherous journey across the globe away from disease, war and uncertainty. As if the twinkling lights of the tent amounted to the North Star.’
Circuses are a community, a family. The bonds that are forged at the immigrant circus were a treat to write. In Hidden Colours, the performers come together as a set of broken people, who have lost their homes and are in an alien country, but together they are stronger. They are a net for each other. Like any community, there are black sheep amongst them, but there is a real camaraderie that emerges in the genre of circus stories.
Circus performers must trust each other, or they risk cracks appearing during dangerous feats in the circus ring.

4. ‘Zul the Clown bumbled into the ring, feigning flatulence to the hilarity of the children, his polka-dotted flat cap turning on his head of its own accord.’ 
The clowns deserve a homage of their own.
Before writing Hidden Colours, clowns used to scare me: big red noses, white-painted faces, windsail trousers and giant shoes. I watched It when I was far too young, and that trauma still floats up from my subconscious today. I find myself checking drains for Pennywise if I’m coming home late at night. Likewise, Heath Ledger’s awe-inspiring Joker in The Dark Knight is not a man you’d like to run into, even in daylight. They are not good-humoured buffoons performing slapstick and tricks; they are maniacs.
Then I began researching and I discovered the humanitarian aspect of clowning. There was also the story of the real-life Clown of Aleppo, which stayed with me. He became a clown in Aleppo when it was besieged by fighting, to bring a smile to children there. He refused to leave the city and was killed by a strike at the age of twenty-four. In Hidden Colours, I imagine he escaped Syria and his story continues. Zul is probably my favourite character in the book.
Clowns are compassionate and clever. They are artists, outliers and risk-takers. They aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. They remind us not to take ourselves seriously, to pick ourselves up when something goes wrong. The more I researched, the more I was struck by their empathy. Maybe one day Zul will get his own novel and it’ll go some way towards counter-balancing It!

5. ‘Stars made from delicate silver fabric lined the upper parts of the tent. Strings of fairy-lights had been strung through the rafters. They twinkled in the dark, blazing just for this brief hour or two when the circus came to life.’ 
The best thing about circus stories? It’s that nothing is out of place. Enter a circus tent and there is freedom. Anything can happen. It’s why I fell in love with Erin Morgernstern’s The Night Circus long ago and with The Greatest Showman last year, and why it was pure joy writing about this setting. The unusual is normal at the circus. There are no boundaries, only pure imagination and courage, commitment to the art form and to the acceptance of strangeness without judgement. There’s beauty in that.


After reading this I'm even more excited for the book! If you are interested in checking out Hidden Colours, it is already out and available on Amazon. Once again thank you to Nillu Nasser for this special post!


  1. This book looks really cool, I've seen it posted around. I enjoyed this post :)

  2. I love reading and wanted to add new reads in the new year, so I shall definitely be checking this out x

  3. This sounds like such an interesting read, although I am more of a non-fiction reader, I would love to read this book after reading your post

  4. Circuses have always scared me, not sure why. I'd find this akin to a horror story

  5. I really do wish I had time to read more. There are so many lovely books I would love to try and read including his one. it sounds like a good book.

  6. The cover of this book is absolutely stunning!


  7. Love the sound of this book and have added it to my book bucket list. Love a circus as a setting because as this post says the unusual is the norm in a circus and there is such freedom to create anything there.

  8. This book sounds lovely!! I'll have to keep an eye out for it!

  9. What an interesting book, I normally go for more thriller type books but I’ll have to add this my reading list for 2019 x

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