The Night Circus has been on my bookshelf for a month now and it was with much anticipation I finally was free enough to sit down to enjoy. I new it was going to be a wonderful artistic read, or I thought I could tell that by looking at the cover and end sheets. So lovely, it is one of the most attractive books I have purchased in a long time. Black shiny cover with white, red, and swirls of silver showing a tattooed arm holding up a tiny black and white circus with tents and a clock. The whole feel of the tangible book is magical and mysterious. I was not disappointed. This is one of those books that is tasty to examine before you start.
There was a fair amount of prepublication hype for this book which helped and hindered my reading. Being a debut novel I was prepared to dismiss a few annoying elements but some hype led me to expect things that did not develop. For instance the pr about star-crossed lovers was overdone. The lovers, Celia and Marco aren't very fleshed out with clear personalities and therefore, as a reader, I wasn't much invested in them. Plus the love story doesn't even start until over half of the novel has transpired. The introduction of Bailey, a farm boy who loves the circus, changed the whole feel of the book for me and I was by then tuning out my environs to sink into the story. Bailey, along with the twins Widget and Poppet, born in the circus to the animal trainers, and the circus itself are the real personalities that I cared about. The circus appears to be a living breathing entity with a personality and all the performers are integral to the life of the circus.
I would call this an ethereal, Gregory Maguire type fantasy novel. It even has a mysterious clock like Maguire's Wicked, characters who never age, people who aren't who they seem to be, mystery, and magic. While Celia and Marco seem flat there are a multitude of other interesting characters such as Isobel the fortune teller, Tsukiko the tattooed contortionist, Barris the architect, and Freidrick the clock maker.
“Trespassers Will Be Exsanguinated,” how could you not like a book with lines like that? This book is rich in interesting language and the well-turned sentence. Some members of book group were put off by the construction of the novel since the chapters are not chronological and the perspective shifts. I have to admit it did make it a bit difficult and I had to flip back once in a while but I even liked that aspect. If one tries reading this novel via an e-reader the flipping may be annoyingly cumbersome. There is a lot going on and many characters.
Le Cirque des Reves/The Night Circus is conceived at one of the much coveted culinary delightful “Midnight Dinners” of Chandresh LeFevre. Lefevre presents his plans to those who become the designers and collaborators; Friedrick Theissen the clock maker, Scottish sisters Tara and Lainie Burgess business consultants, Mme Padva the costume designer, and Ethan Barris the architect. Lefevre envisions a different kind of circus than one of elephants and clowns. He wants a magical show of enchantments and beauty. So begins this adventure.
Hector Bowen (Prospero the Enchanter) and Mr. A.H. (Alexander) are centuries old magicians who groom and then place two of their pupils in a “game” for which the players will need to figure out the rules and who their opponent is on their own. Both of the budding young magicians become involved with The Night Circus and the circus becomes the venue for their game. Celia becomes an illusionist in the circus and Marco becomes the personal assistant to Chandresh the owner/designer. The circus is a work of art and beauty all its own. The Night Circus travels the world, seems to appear magically, opening at dusk, closing at dawn, and the enchanted visitors while becoming enamored of the circus never suspect that they witness real magic. There are many mysterious and wonderful sights in the circus such as The Ice Garden, The Tree of Wishes, The Stargazer, living statues, the Cloud Maze, and of course the wonderful clock.
So many sub-plots to keep track of too! Celia and Marco know they are players in a game but they don't know the rules or how to determine who wins so they become collaborators in the circus and fall in love. A farm boy who wants to leave home for college or adventure but whose father expects him to take over the family farm becomes friends with Poppet and Widget, twin performers in the circus. Reveurs, like modern day groupies follow the Night Circus all over the world and dress in black with red scarves. Those associated with the circus become aware that they no longer age. Mr. Barris falls in love with the Scottish sisters. Isobel is in love with Marco but he does not love her back. Oh my and that isn't all!
Loved it, loved the adventure, even loved the non-linear plot and the many characters.
One thing I didn't love. In the beginning and at the breaks between chapters there is a constellation. I, nor any one at book group could find out what it is! Annoying.
Surprising – there is no dedication page. I like those usually and missed it.