Book Club Update

Posted on September 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

The circus arrives without warning. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The black sign, painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, reads: Opens at Nightfall Closes at Dawn.

Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus (Vintage, 2012) was the SYP Book Club’s read of July. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents a fierce competition is underway. A duel between two young magicians: Celia, the enchanter’s daughter, and Marco, the sorcerer’s apprentice, have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a battle of imagination and will.

Morgenstern’s narrative is built heavily around the staging of the circus, which works magnificently. As a book club who aren’t huge on bulky description, The Night Circus surprised us all with its evocative and atmospheric description. The reader feels, like the rêveurs (the dreamers) who visit the circus, to be under its spell. However, for a story that is centred around a duel-to-the-death, we felt the action was heavily understated. The point of the duel is not explicit and hence we were indifferent as to who was to win. We were disappointed when the final battle took place, as it is quick and left us unsure as to what had really happened – not a technique by Morgenstern to create anticipation, just bad depiction of the action. The plot promises a lot more than it delivers.

The book club was also disappointed by the falsity in the time period. Although the novel is set in the 19th century, the language and the characters actions suggest otherwise, although members who were not a fan of period fiction were glad of this.

Where Morgenstern lacks in action and plot she certainly makes up for in description, and the circus is truly magical. The circus is steeped in mystery, some of which is never revealed. This may frustrate some readers, but it also adds to the beauty of the circus.