Saturday, 27 July 2013

Summer Reading Challenge: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Brace yourself guys, I'm about to make a big statement. This is my favourite book I've read for this challenge. I will even go so far as to say that it is now one of my favourite books of all time. I don't want to go on, but I seriously adored every moment of reading this. I finished and wrote the review of the last book on Monday. As I write this opening introduction it is now Wednesday and I am leaving for my holiday this evening. I may have read this in a short amount of time, but I feel as if I have savoured every word, every wonderful image, and since the first page I have known that I will love this book. If I'm being honest, I should probably have started a different book on Monday. One that wouldn't consume me so much, as the thought of going away without having finished this book was unacceptable to me! It is just one of those delightful books that is filled with such wonderful ideas and such evocative imagery. It has truly been a pleasure to read! The rest of this review will be written by Future Sophie when she has returned from all her many voyages!

Well, Past Sophie was certainly very enthusiastic about this book! And rightly so. This was one of those books where you get about three pages in and a massive grin forms on your face as you realise that you are going to enjoy every second. All that is on the blurb is this:
"The circus arrives without warning.
No announcements precede it.
It is simply there, when yesterday it was not"

Suffice to say, I was intrigued. And I was not disappointed! The Night Circus is filled with wonderful imagery, an interesting plot and was a very enjoyable read. It's set around the Victorian age but the narrative isn't chronological. Instead it skips from past to future, slowly unfolding the events. I personally enjoyed this as I felt it helped build the mystery of what would happen. The two main characters, Celia and Marco, have been pitted against each other by their mentors in some kind of magical competition of which very little is known. The Night Circus is created as the setting for their game/competition/whatever it actually is and thus begins their contest. I must admit, although more detail was given about the competition as the book progressed, I still don't entirely understand it. Mostly, I don't understand how it would end. The book builds the competition up to be some grand life or death thing, but it sort of seems like they could just keep competing indefinitely. If anyone has read this, let me know what your take on it was in the comments!

I think part of the reason I loved this book so much is the amount of wonderful ideas that are in it. I have a very visual mind and this book really tapped into that, especially in the circus. Morgenstern gives such rich and enchanting descriptions of the different tents that it makes visualising them incredibly easy. Added to this is the simple yet bold colour scheme. In the circus, everything is black and white, with splashes of vivid red for the rêveurs. These are people who love the circus and follow it around the world and wear a splash of red so they can recognise one another. In a sense you as the reader becomes one of the rêveurs as well. (But only if you are actually enjoying the book I suppose!) In my review of The Stone Gods I mentioned that one of my favourite parts was when the description of other planets, just because they were such wonderful, stand alone ideas. They didn't need to have an entire book dedicated to them, they were just little jewels in the midst of the narrative. I feel like the circus fills this role as well. The nature of the competition means that there are tents that are only fleetingly mentioned and never returned to, but they still linger in your mind as a wonderful idea. I particularly liked a tent that was filled with bottles, that as you smelled them they conjured a particular memory or moment in your mind, such as a visit to a beach or a hot summer night. It was the small details like this that enchanted me.

I enjoyed exploring the relationship between Celia and Marco as it grew and changed. It really isn't a spoiler to say that a romance develops between the two, as I think it is quite apparent early on in the book. In fact, in my opinion the only other option for them would be absolute hatred. Celia and Marco's lives are built around the competition. Celia spends her time as the illusionist for the circus, and Marco spends his organising it from afar. They are constantly wrapped up in the world of the competition.  They will always be having to think about the next move they will make and trying to second guess their opponent. With so much of their time occupied by thinking about the other person, it seems impossible that they could have an entirely neutral relationship. Throughout the book there are questions raised about how the competition will be affected those involved in the circus. Whilst it may seem like a magical, enchanting place, there is a cost to it and Morgenstern makes you think about what this price might be. Yes the competition has resulted in the creation of this wonderful place, but what else? In addition to this is the question about the final outcome. The competition causes these two people's fates to become entwined, but only one of them can win. What happens to the victor at the end of it all? I won't give away any spoilers, these were just questions that I found myself wondering as I read. 

As you can tell, I really enjoyed reading this and I will definitely be on the look out for any more of Morgenstern's work. Have any of you guys read this, and if so what did you think? Are there any books you would recommend based on this one? And was there anything about this book that left you unsatisfied? Let me know!

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