"The Night Circus: A Novel" by Erin Morgenstern
February 05, 2013
I find it difficult to write book reviews. When I'm in the middle of a book and all enthusiastic about it, I don't know enough to write a review (and the time to take to write a review conflicts with actually reading!). Once I'm done, I'm off to another book.
I'm only about halfway done with The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, and I won't be finishing it anytime soon. I only read it when I have lots of attention - never when I'm the slightest bit tired. If I find my attention wavering in the slightest, I put it down and wait for another day.
It's that beautiful.
I don't want to miss a single word.
It's difficult to describe. You feel like you know the characters very well, but they don't chatter all the time, out loud or inside their heads. There's tension in the story, but it also feels perfectly balanced. It's unlike any other book, but it feels like what a book should be. It's like a dream you remember vividly.
Here's the Amazon description:
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 Rêves, 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.
It's a good description of the basic plot, but it doesn't give a feel for the book at all.
I don't like to know much anything about the plot of a book so I've taken to reading the first sentence of the description and the first paragraph, or the first page of the book. In the last few years, I've realized that writing style is very important to me. If I like the way the first paragraph is written, I'll probably like the book. Here is the beginning of The Night Circus:
The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colorless world. Even what little ground is visible from outside is black or white, painted or powdered, or treated with some other circus trick.
But it is not open for business. Not just yet.
Within hours everyone in town has heard about it. By afternoon the news has spread several towns over. Word of mouth is a more effective method of advertisement than typeset words and exclamation points on paper pamphlets or posters. It is impressive and unusual news, the sudden appearance of a mysterious circus. People marvel at the staggering height of the tallest tents. They stare at the clock that sits just inside the gates that no one can properly describe...
I'm very lucky to have it in hardback - my Christmas present from daughter.
The part of me that likes to discuss wants to finish it quickly so I can hand it on for the guys to read, but I'm not rushing at all.
The Chapel Hill library has a few available copies, though, and I have some books to return there...