Friday, March 02, 2012

Shades of Grey

I've heard mixed reviews of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus.  I can see how it's a book that would not appeal to every taste--atmosphere, setting, and lavish description comprise the large proportion of the book. It's a book about a deep and passionate love that springs from experiences but few words, and that changes the course of many lives, including many people besides the lovers.  Here you have a list of what are usually my pet peeves, but this was a really good book.

It's true, though, that it's not for everyone.  It's very much about atmosphere, and if you want it to get where it's going, you're going to be disappointed.  Because of this, I think listening to the audiobook was definitely the right choice for me.  I like an audiobook with lots of interesting description--not boring, but also not every word is vital to following the overall plot.  Jim Dale does an amazing job as the reader, with just the right amount of exoticism, and an amazing gift for giving each character a voice without being a ham.

It's funny, because the descriptions are so mystical and lavish that they lent magic even beyond what they were describing, if that makes sense.  Sure, it's got to be dramatic that the whole circus is decorated in black and white, but if you think about it, that could be kind of boring, visually.  You don't think that, though, when you're reading this.  It's compelling and hypnotic beyond the sum of its parts.

La Cirque des Reves is the creation of a well-known stage magician, and it is a magical place.  But what few know is that two of its many occupants are engaged in a secret contest of true magic.  Marco and Celia were both sealed to the contest as children, and now they create fantastic illusions, new attractions for the circus, as they engage in a long and complicated dance.

Really, though, Celia and Marco are almost the least interesting of the many inhabitants of this book.  I think my favorite part of the whole experience is the rich and varied cast.  So many stories forget that their secondary characters are trying to live whole lives in the background, but this book never does.  Bailey and the Murray twins, Isobel, Tsukiko, Chandresh, Mr. Barris, Herr Thiessen, the Burgess sisters: I had to look up all these names to spell them, but I remembered them all, and their details.  The twins don't get lost in each other; Isobel is not just a placeholder; Tsukiko may be enigmatic, but there is such depth to her.  Each of these people has their own small story, as each of them deserves.

It's not the book for everyone.  If you're looking for an audiobook, I definitely recommend it, and if this description sounds like your cup of tea--if you want something beautiful and magical and dreamy--then this is absolutely the book for you.

1 comment:

Linden said...

I'm reading this right now. I'm not sure yet how much I like it, but I think I will finish.