This is a potentially fascinating novel based around a truly magical circus. There is real magic involved, not just smoke and mirrors. The Night Circus appears without warning outside various cities and towns, runs through the night and at no other time, and is entirely in black and white. It sounds intriguing.
In Erin Morgenstern’s book we get to see the circus, see how it came about, and see the lives of some of those involved in designing it, performing in it, and visiting it. But through it all there runs a kind of competition, the exact nature of which neither the two opponents nor the reader are truly clear about. The illusionists who created the challenge, or competition, remain shadowy and insubstantial. It seems a conceit to them, and some may find that fascinating, too.
I did not. I found the book pretentious in the way it skipped from scene to scene, with those irritating dates and locations at the start which make you have to check back and determine whether you’ve jumped sideways, backwards or forwards in time and space. The concept of the circus and the details are executed brilliantly, and with great imagination, beautiful description – and engineering, but there is no warmth, nothing that grabs your attention – it missed piquing my interest by a long way. I noticed when I described it as ‘tedious’ in one of my updates, that the fault lay in the lack of engagement I had with any of the characters, especially not the leading ones. I did find two somewhat more interesting, the engineer and the clockmaker, but they were side trips, embellishing the main event. The writer has written exquisitely. Shame about the story.
Since my bookclub meeting is still a week away, I may finish it. At present it would languish on my ‘unfinished’ pile, if I hadn’t a string of those in the last twelve months. What is it with ‘books for bookclubs’? Why are they so unengaging? These are all ‘popular’ books, up for awards, lauded by agents and publishers.
Maybe the rest of my bookclub will have enjoyed it. I’ll let you know.
2 stars from me, because the writing is exquisite.