Monday, 12 November 2012

The Night Circus

What I like about my book club is the ability to read modern literature.  I'm so fixated on my classics that I sometimes lose contact with what is happening in the literature world today, and I don't want to.  I want to feel the inspiration that drives literature nowadays, the problems, the challenges and I want to read in the "modern" way - otherwise, I risk of speaking in Victorian English before I know it! This time around, the book was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and this proved to be a great challenge for me...

It was a great challenge because it was fantasy literature, a new theme for me - although those of the group who read fantasy were quick to point out that it was not "proper" fantasy, but more "urban" fantasy (please don't ask me about the definitions, I haven't a clue).

So, reading this book took me way out of my comfort zone.  I have to admit I had great difficulty reading it throughout, but definitely until the 2/3 of the book.  I haven't yet managed to let my imagination run wild in order to appreciate this parallel reality/universe notion - but then again, I'm not sure that I would want to live in such a  world (a better, calmer, greener one yes, but not a parallel one...).

In it, anyhow, we are invited to the world of the Le Cirque des Rêves that performs from sunset until sunrise: "the circus arrives without warning".  Second type of discomfort - I'm not that keen on the whole circus theme, but I was willing to see this just as the stage to the story, so I focused there instead.  The story, then, stems from the rivalry between Mr. A.H. and Prospero the Enchanter, who groom respectively an orphan boy, Marco, and Prospero's daughter, Celia, to a wager in order to prove who the greater magician is.  With different areas of talent, the children engage in a straining competition.  

While the book includes several themes into its storyline, and certainly has a role for every character involved, there are two major themes that seemed to want to capture my attention - the love story between Marco and Celia and the question of fate or choice that is the world of the circus.  As to the first, I would say that there were little glimpses of a blossoming attraction throughout the book.  I can't decide how to read this particular theme, as I'm not sure whether it was the intention to place this couple to the centre of the story or to treat is as one of the "casualties" of the circus world.  The more I think about it, the more I'm inclined to see the story of the couple interlinked with the question of fate and choice and both as the background upon which we get the true image of this parallel world.  Of how their fate to enter this competition, with rules none understood, gave rise to a series of situations, where one has to choose whether or not to remain tied to the circus.

The obvious answer of course would be to choose, and thus leave the circus, which is evil.  But there's a difficulty:  
Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. 
(true in this as well as the parallel world).  But what I loved most was this ending: 

You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Rêves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus.  You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.

Now, if that did not tickle my (very restrained) imagination...


  1. If nothing else, at least it pushed you out of your comfort zone (that's what I always tell myself when I take literary risks).

    I liked it well enough, but was far from the enthusiasm that swept the book blogging community last year!

    1. Thanks Alex! I'm glad I wasn't alone...




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