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The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
Member Name: Rhiana
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
Date: 20/10/11, updated on 20/10/11 (53 review reads)
Advantages: Original, beautifully enchanting, stunning descriptive prose, magical, captivating
Disadvantages: If you like books firmly set in reality, you'll HATE it
"Opens at Nightfall; Closes at Dawn."
The mysterious 'Le Cirque des RÍves' is like no other. No-one knows where it comes from and no-one knows where it will go next. It just arrives suddenly, opening up it's wonders from dusk until dawn. At the heart of this magnificent circus, and unbeknownst to those who visit is a duel between two powerful magicians, who each pit one of their students against each other beneath the backdrop of the beautiful big top. Celia and Marco, forced into a battle to the end, find themselves falling in ill fated love. But it's not only their hearts caught up in the wonder of The Night Circus, and the repercutions will reach far and wide to anyone who has visited and fell in love with The Circus Of Dreams.
Erin Morgenstern's debut novel, The Night Circus, comes with some pretty huge claims. Promising to be the publishing sensation of the year and recommended by the likes of Audrey Niffenegger it has a lot to live up to. Personally, having now read the book, I think the hype is more than justified. The Night Circus now sits firmly on my favourite books ever shelf and is one I know I will want to read again and again.
The Night Circus tells the story of two magicians with different schools of thought on the learning of magic. One believes it's innate, only those born magical can be truly great while the other believes it can be learned with the right training. One uses cruel and harsh techniques to get the best from their student and focuses mainly on the practical while the other adopts an isolating and studious regime. Each sure that theirs is the best way; they pit students against each other in a battle to the end.
If you're expecting an action packed book full of magic and action you'll only be half right. This book is certainly magical; from the very first page it exudes magic and Morgenstern's exquisite writing instantly enchanted me. I felt I'd been sucked in to this surreal, dreamlike world and enjoyed every single moment of it. This book isn't fast paced at all, it's a slow, floating journey and I savoured it, wanting to make it last as long as I possibly could. There's no action packed duels either, the magic is subtle yet extraordinarily grand and beautiful.
The book is told by several different viewpoints spanning several decades. What's fascinating is that these viewpoints don't run linear to each other, so we flit backwards and forwards between years- yet I was never confused at all. This approach made the book all the more magical and you could sense you were heading to a climatic meeting point in time.
I loved the different characters within the book, especially Celia and Marco themselves, however it's the actual circus that takes the lead role in this book. The depth of Erin Morgenstern's imagination is remarkable and she describes it in such rich and vivid detail. I could smell the caramel apples she talked about, imagine with astounding clarity the scenes of wonder created and feel the magic and intrigue crackling through my body as I absorbed this book. It was utterly captivating throughout and each time I left I felt I was awakening from a strange and beautiful dream. There's very little dialogue in the book, but it is filled with stunning descriptive prose which makes it a visual experience unlike any other book I've read before.
I was probably half way through the book when I noticed suddenly that it's written in the present tense. Usually I hate this style, it irritates me beyond belief and I find it very distracting. It's testament to how absorbing and well written The Night Circus is that I didn't notice it sooner, and once I did wasn't bothered by it at all. If I did have one tiny criticism of this book it would be the time period it's set in. I was particularly excited to read that the book was set in Victorian times, as it's without question my most favourite period to read about and I expected the era to enhance the story. In actual fact, the time period ended up irrelevant, little reference was made to it and in fact it could have been almost anytime in the last 150 years. This was my only pang of slight disappointment or regret with this book.
It's pretty clear from the product descriptions on Amazon, blurbs from famous and noteable people and lushness of the stunning hardcover edition that the publishing team are really pushing this book. That's fine, because I honestly feel this time the book deserves the hype. It makes everything else I've read recently pale beside it and is so unique and intriguing I challenge anyone not to fall in love with it. What does annoy me is the marketing publishers often use. I've seen this book described as 'for the Twilight Generation'. Let's get something straight. This book is NOTHING like Twilight and that statement baffles me completely. It's absurd. I've also seen it compared to Harry Potter, and again wonder why the PR people do this. The only thing it has in common is magic. And even then it's so completely different to make it a very, very vague comparison at that. The Night Circus isn't even for teens or children, although it can certainly be enjoyed by anyone of age 13 up. It's an adult book, and I'm annoyed that claims like this would have adults who would find this book wonderful turning their nose up and dismissing it outright. If I'm forced to make a comparison then the book I'd probably liken it to would be Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife , not because of plot or style but because of the sheer imagination, surrealism and romance within the pages and the way I felt I wanted to devour every page again and again when I finished both books.
The Night Circus is one of the most perfect books I've ever read and I was completely blown away by it. If you don't like magic realism at all and find it difficult to suspend any belief then this probably isn't the book for you. This is a book not to question, but to let yourself be carried away on a magical, surreal journey. It's stunning, romantic, magical and beautifully written and a remarkable debut. I can't imagine what Erin Morgenstern will come up with next.
NB: The cover above is a US cover. The UK one (which I talk about) Can be found at Amazon.
Published September 2011 by Harvill Secker
Proof copy recieved from the Amazon Vine program.
Summary: A New Favourite...perfect.