|The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Published by Vintage in 2012
Mode of travel: Magic, Train
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In 1886, a mysterious traveling circus becomes an international sensation. Open only at night, constructed entirely in black and white, Le Cirque des Reves delights all who wander its circular paths and warm themselves at its bonfire. Although there are acrobats, fortune-tellers and contortionists, the Circus of Dreams is no conventional spectacle. Some tents contain clouds, some ice. The circus seems almost to cast a spell over its aficionados, who call themselves the reveurs - the dreamers. At the heart of the story is the tangled relationship between two young magicians, Celia, the enchanter's daughter, and Marco, the sorcerer's apprentice. At the behest of their shadowy masters, they find themselves locked in a deadly contest, forced to test the very limits of the imagination, and of their love...
Verdict: brilliant for those who like visuals and don’t crave too much excitement.
You’d think a traveling circus story would float my carpet any day of the year, but this one turned out to be a bit like an airport or a railway station. It stayed exactly the same wherever it went. The only places that get fleshed out at all are Victorian London and a farm in Massachusetts, but even they are picturesque stage sets, populated by 21st century personalities. I think the author was mainly in it for this:
Anyway, that’s not exactly criticism of the book., so on to the review! The Night Circus is extremely visual, a real feast for the senses. It’s like being in a film, maybe a paper silhouette animation like this:
or this or this.
I enjoy reading books like this, especially on Christmas Eve. I became a bit addicted to this fantastical circus, just like the reveurs, the circus fans in the story, and couldn’t put the book down until it was finished, despite having many important things to do the next morning. After that, how can I not give it four stars?
It’s delightful, skillful, tightly structured and aesthetically pleasing and errr… a bit flat. Some readers have a justified interest in intricate plotting, character development, emotional rollercoasters, historical accuracy and other deeper concerns. They won’t find them here. The author rather goes out of her way to distance us from the contents of her characters’ heads. She gives us a story that nominally includes murder, insanity, passion and other causes of turmoil but what really matters is whether the colour and shape of the pool of blood harmonises with its backdrop.