Thursday, October 25, 2012

Night Circus

by Erin Morgenstern

This is one of those books that had been the subject of so much buzz last year when it came out that I debated whether or not to read it.  It got lots of rave reviews in last years RIP so I decided to give it a try. 

Here is the blurb from the publisher:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.  
This is a very visual book and I absolutely loved the Night Circus itself.  This is not the typical Barnum and Baily Circus with scary clowns, sad elephants, greasy popcorn and garish tents. 
More than a circus, really, like no circus anyone has ever seen. Not a single large tent but a multitude of tents, each with a particular exhibition. No elephants or clowns. No, something more refined than that. Nothing commonplace. This will be different, this will be an utterly unique experience, a feast for the senses. Theatrics sans theater, an immersive entertainment. We will destroy the presumptions and preconceived notions of what a circus is and make it something else entirely, something new.
And it certainly was something new, some type of circus that I had never encountered before.  The black and white color scheme, the amazing clock, the bonfire, the ice garden, the cloud maze, color changing dresses, the pool of tears, the wishing tree, the red scarved Reveurs all were simply magical. And the descriptions of the Circus were so richly detailed that I could almost smell the cider and taste the chocolate mice.  If the Night Circus were to exist, I would absolutely attend, perhaps even become a Reveur.  I would love to see it in a movie with all the possible special effects. 

The author did an amazing job of creating such  rich imagery of the circus with words.  
The face of the clock becomes a darker grey, and then black, with twinkling stars where the numbers had been previously. The body of the clock, which has been methodically turning itself inside out and expanding, is now entirely subtle shades of white and grey. And it is not just pieces, it is figures and objects, perfectly carved flowers and planets and tiny books with actual paper pages that turn. There is a silver dragon that curls around part of the now visible clockwork, a tiny princess in a carved tower that paces in distress, awaiting an absent prince. Teapots that pour into teacups and minuscule curls of steam that rise from them as the seconds tick. Wrapped presents open. Small cats chase small dogs. An entire game of chess is played.
I want to see that clock!  And if you do a quick search on the internet you can find the most amazing arts and crafts that were inspired by the Night Circus. 

But, as a novel, it didn’t work for me.  The plot seemed a half-hearted, at best, attempt. I know some will say that the plot wasn’t important but if you are going to try and have a plot, I think you should do it well.  And I am not one that needs a plot driven story.  (One of my favorite books is Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, which has no plot.)  The story was supposedly about a fierce competition or duel between two magicians and their love story.  The love story didn’t work at all (I have no idea why Celia was even interested, much less in love with Marco) and the competition was mostly absent from the story line for most of the book.  And when it came to the fore of the story and I started to become interested in the contest itself, perhaps its origins, its purpose or even its creators, or even some of that “fierce competition”, that plot line just withered away.  The competition story line had so much potential and it was more or less ignored.  Moreover, the characters fell flat for me.  The only character that I found interesting was Bailey but as he played a relatively small role he was not enough to carry the entire story. 

If someone actually creates the Circus or it is made into a movie, or perhaps even a Disney attraction, I would go.  As far as a written work, it simply didn't work for me. 


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