Monday, January 25, 2016

Book Review: The Night Circus

My first review on this book is here, but this one is more detailed. 

Summary: “The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.” A densely detailed narrative that uses your five senses to make the story come alive in your hands while you read. A competition between two illusionists, set in a magical circus. Secrets, twins, a cast of characters who all might not be what they seem. The Night Circus will captivate you from the moment you pick it up, fill your dreams, and leave you breathless and waiting for more. 

If you can't get enough of The Night Circus, check out my Pinterest board of images that remind me of this story :)

Why did I pick it up: It is one of my favorite books. I've read it four times, always in January. It's become a sort of tradition for me. 

Genre: Fantasy ... but adventure and mystery too

Favorite Character: On this reading (because I think it changes for me every time) Bailey is my favorite. But they are all so real, so tangible that I struggle to choose one. I think he is my favorite because Poppet is almost always my favorite ... it would make sense if I choose her favorite once in awhile ;)

Suggested Age Range: It is an adult book, but teens easily enjoy it

Diversity Represented: Although there are different ethnicities, they are set up in very stereotypical roles, so if you are looking for diversity this probably isn't a great representation. 

Romance: Yes, agonizing romance

The Good: It is the rich, flowery language and dense storytelling that makes me love this book from the moment it opens. I love the different chapters. Sometimes we are in third person, being told the story of these characters and listening to the tale unwind. My favorite chapters are the second person snippets that make the circus come alive as the reader walks through. From walking into the front gates to touring tents, the circus comes alive in these little glimpses. 

From the start I love the slow pacing of this book, which is not something I'm usually attracted to. However, the magic would be lost if the pacing was faster. Even though there are several intertwining storylines and so many characters, I love how we are given time to get to know each one before a new one is introduced.

Some of my favorite descriptions in the book are of the clock, both in second and third person. Really it all starts with that clock, all of the reveres, all of the circus love begins with the making of that clock.

Every time I read this book a different component is important to me. This time I was really caught up in the mystery of what Marcos is doing, Tara, all of the secrets. This is the darker part of the story and I usually am not as captivated by it. In other readings I've loved Marcos and Celia's story, or just been obsessed with the circus itself. The Revers are always interesting to me as well ... I might dress up as one for Halloween, but that's a long way off just yet.

Let's talk romance for just a second:

Celia: I remember people who look at me like they are either afraid of me or want to kiss me
Marco: I'm not afraid of you

*swoon* This whole part during the tour just about makes me melt inside.

I'm a big fan of foreshadowing and after you've read this book once (or four times) and you read it again you really get to see all of the foreshadowing that is happening. I can see directing this in a college English class.

The Bad: If I had to choose a least favorite character it would be Isobel. In a book where every character is so real on the page, Isobel falls flat. Which is unfortunate, because she is a large part of the story. She usually annoys me, but this time, having this book narrated by Jim Gill the reader for the Harry Potter books, she occasionally sounds like Hermione and that makes me like her even less. I love Hermione, and she is no Hermione. But sometimes Poppet sounds like MacGonogal and that makes me sad too. 

I can see why some people don't like this book. I can understand that the plot moves painfully slow, that the story doesn't unwind chronologically (although dates are given at the start of the chapters to help you out) ... but the story couldn't be told with less detail and still be this delicious in the end. 
The Bitter Truth: I need a sequel about Poppet, Widget, and Bailey. 

If you like this book you might like The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus ... it is a movie (with Health Ledger, the last Ledger film) that is very similar to this, although not quite as magical (movies never are), but you might be captivated by it too.

Some thoughts that are totally spoilery - select below at your own risk

Here is my theory, going back to all of the foreshadowing and the cyclical nature of the book. Don't Bowen and A.H. really create the problems with the characters that they complain about? Bowen's characters "take themselves out of the game" to let the other one win. It is a nature nurture argument. 

Bowen raises Celia in a super controlling environment where she is smothered and told she isn't good enough. She wants her father's love, but Bowen doesn't know how to give that to her because this is a game. He is her father, yet he isn't worried about losing her. Partly because he thinks he won't lose, but partly because he doesn't seem that attached. The result is a girl who longs for someone to be loving and tender toward her. She is strong and resilient, but she is also hardened and hurting.  

Across the pond, A.H. takes and extremely hands off approach with Marco. Locking him in a room, giving him little to no human contact, but MANY books to read. Celia is taught painful lessons, while Marco is on a voyage of discovery. Marco is alone, but his books make him into a kind, well-adjusted man. 

Marco is tender and careful, thinking of others because he has longed for that human interaction for so long. I think that is why he builds all of the safeguards into the circus. Celia is working to project herself from an abusive (we can argue that he really is) father and thinks in a very self-centered way. I think that is why it takes her so long to discover Marco is her opponent. 

Because of the way A.H. and Bowen raise their students, I believe they cause generation after generation to fall in love with each other. They have literally raised them to only connect with each other. No one really understands what it is like to have these powers and play this game. But Marco is what Celia needs, someone to care for her in the most gentle of ways and with all of his heart and no endgame in mind. Celia is what Marco needs, someone who is willing to be with him no matter what, someone to be quiet with. For each other they are the OTP. 

A.H. mocks Bowen at one point because his players tend to take themselves out of the game (I assume by killing themselves) and I think that is because Bowen's players finally know what it is like to love and be loved in return. They don't want to lose it, but a life of being selfish and looking out for their interests makes them not even realize that they should do it WITH the other person. I'm glad we got to watch the story where they figured it out. 

Then, in the end, Marco and Celia become the type of mentors they wish they'd had. All along Celia was helping Poppet and Wicket in different ways, she was worried about it at the beginning (but boy did that pay off). The scene with Marco and Wicket having lunch makes me smile because it was so fatherly. What a lovely image to have at the end. 

The ending is tied up nicely, brought all of the way to modern day, but never has there been an ending  which was so disappointing for me. Although the circus survives, I just so want to know more about Poppet, Wicket, and Bailey. Even a short story, but alas, Erin Morgenstern seems to be done with this story. 

How much did I like it? 5 Stars ... give it all the stars. 

Book Bingo 2016: none, it is just a favorite 

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