Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tales from the Bookshelf - The Night Circus

Today I wanted to talk about The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. This is the October book for the NovelTea Book Club, which I recently joined. Slight spoilers here, so go away if you haven't finished it yet! ;) I really liked the setting and the idea of this book, so I was really hoping I'd enjoy it. Unfortunately I just found it to be a little...too much, I guess, distracting me from the actual story line. We'll get back to that in a second.

The Night Circus

"The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called “Le Cirque des Reves,” and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead."

So the story is about Celia and Marco, who spend most of their lives training for some magical challenge that neither of them really understand (such as who it's with, what it's for, or even when it's taking place - it bugs me when people don't demand answers to important questions). They both end up working for The Night Circus, which is when the challenge begins. Even though the story is about Celia and Marco, it's told from the perspective of just about every character in the book. Most of these different perspectives are set in different time periods - not chronologically. To give you an idea I just flipped my book open to the middle, and the next few chapters went in order like this (character, location, and time period):

- Chandresh in London, 1886
- Bailey in Massachusetts, 1902
- Written in third person so not really anyone's POV, some location, 1887
- Friedrick in France, 1889
- Widget and Poppet in Cairo, 1890
- Marco in Paris, 1891

So you'll see there's a lot of traveling in this book (to different destinations and different places in time, so it's basically time travel, which I hate) [Just kidding it's not time travel, but it's still annoying.] With all these different characters and time periods, things get a little confusing. On top of that, the book is written in first, second, AND third person. Keeping the story straight is difficult, and if you don't pay enough attention when you're hopping through different time periods it's easy to assume that things in the story mean things that they actually don't. This happened to me in the beginning and I had to flip back and reread some parts.

Another issue I had with this book is that the two main characters are so, so, so boring. They're boring because we don't really know anything about them, and they're not given any personal traits or quirks to separate them from any other characters in the book. If I read a chapter about Celia, but you told me it was actually about Marco, I'd believe you because they are written the same. Also, Marco's kind of an asshole. He falls in love with Celia in, like, two seconds. Even though he has this other chick, Isobel, that he's been with for years. YEARS! He starts to pursue Celia anyway, and doesn't tell our girl Isobel until WAY later. And when he's off with Celia he never stops for a second to think about Isobel, because he never loved her anyway, so that makes it ok. Celia is a little more remorseful, but not really. When Isobel starts acting like the scorned woman she is, people are like "Isobel y u do dis" because no one seems to get it and the whole thing is just written really weird.

I know I sound grumpy, but I didn't find the book to be a total bust. For starters I liked setting of the circus. I feel like the circus theme has been pretty popular in the last few years, but The Night Circus still manages to set itself apart. It's fun but with a hint of mystery, and reminded me of that Cirque du Soleil movie, Worlds Away - when the girl travels through all the different tents to find different magical things in each one.

Another part of the book I enjoyed was one of the story's other main characters, Bailey. For a good chunk of the book Bailey and his story still revolve around the circus, but not connecting with Celia and Marco. I found Bailey's chapters refreshing to read because I was tired of Marco and Celia. He's a lover of The Night Circus and becomes friends with a set of twins that live and perform there, Poppet and Widget. At first his story feels like filler, like "this is ok, but what does it have to do with anything?" Towards the end everything ties together nicely, although maybe a little rushed.

Bottom line - this was an alright book. Parts of it were fun and creative, while other parts were a snooze. The overzealous time jumping made reading it a chore at times...so maybe it will translate better as a movie (which is being made, but no real dates or details yet). Either way I'm glad I read it. This book has been on my "to read" list fooorever, so now I can finally check it off :) Have you read The Night Circus? What did you think?

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