Saturday, 7 April 2012

Cannonball read #13: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I was surprised to find out that this was Morgenstern's début book. The stuff dreams are made of indeed. So I guess that all the glowing reviews I'd read were right.

The Night Circus is about, well, a circus that you can only visit at night. It is a mysterious world, the board on which a game between two magicians is played. The main pieces in this game are Celia and Marco. Illusionists. As the circus travels through time and place, we find out more and more about this game, sometimes amazed at all the wonders the circus contains, sometimes with a knot in our stomach because of the potential for horror it carries.

The more observant of you might have noticed a common theme in my reviews: I often wonder how much my state of mind, mood and general well-being affects how much I enjoy a book. I started reading the Night Circus more than two weeks ago, and it's been slow going, because I have been ill and/or preoccupied with other things. A few pages before I went to sleep, a few pages on my break at work, progress has been halting.

That of course has had its consequences. The jumping back and forth in time lost me on several occasions. I failed to establish a relationship with the characters in the book. I failed to lose myself in what is, essentially, a reverie, and when the book was over I wondered if I had truly read it or if I had dreamt it. Maybe that was the point? The distance I felt towards the characters, the confusion I felt almost every time I started a new chapter, it all created the illusion of a dream for me. I now wish I could have read all of it in one sitting, because it's the only way to do the book justice. I loved it, but it was more on an intellectual level: I loved the writing, the characters, the world Morgenstern created. But if I'd read all of it in one go, I would have LOVED it. I would have FELT it all.

As it was, I reached the end of the book kind of disappointed in the resolution. I can of course not reveal too much without spoiling the book for those who haven't read it, but it felt hasty, and because I hadn't established a relationship with the characters, in the end I just didn't care too much whatever happened. So, whose fault was it that the ending was disappointing for me? The author's, who didn't make it more to my liking, or my own, who didn't invest more in the characters? Would I have LOVED it if I'd been more focused, less distracted by other things? I think so.

This is a book I would definitely recommend to others. On the condition that they read all of it in one sitting, or at least within a couple of days. Lose themselves in it. That's the only way to truly appreciate this carefully woven, magical dream of a fairytale.

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