The circus arrives without warning.
Imagine a circus just appearing on your doorstep. No advertisements announcing its arrival or lurid lights to guide you – just mysterious monochrome tents and a gate that only opens after sunrise. Within the grounds reside artists whose performances will defy logical, tantalise and ignite the imagination. But this is no ordinary circus – it is an arena in which only one magician can prevail, but is there a higher price at stake?
The Night Circus strongly reminded me of Susanna Clarke’s The Strange Case of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, in both style and subject as the story has a quiet authority that comes from an accomplished writer behind the scenes. It has an ethereal but dramatic quality, spanning a long time period but each strand of the narrative is woven together to create a coherent and accomplished story.
I found the non-linear timeline a little jarring to begin with and though it doesn’t take long to get used to it, overall I think it takes something away from the central duel and love story. The development of characters is therefore appears stunted because they are flitting about all over the place. It isn’t a distracting narrative technique by any means but I’m just not sure it’s entirely necessary…
I will also agree with some critics who believe that the central concept of the ‘magical duel’ is dialled right down to nothing more than a game of one-upmanship and I really couldn’t gauge the rules at all! The competitors are unaware of their competitor until three-quarters of the way into the book and the idea of a ‘duel’ in this book doesn’t exactly correlate with the battle-style you would automatically think of.
The Night Circus focuses on a magical subject and ultimately has a magical delivery – this book’s popularity is far from an illusion! Morgenstern’s ahistorical Victorian novel is an all-consuming drama that draws the reader into a world recognisable and yet unknown. Her writing is vivid yet dream-like with the pace of a gentle whirlwind, taking the reader through a realm of infinite possibility and I enjoyed every single page.