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.
This is going to be a long book review because I have so much to say about this book. So as always, I will have my overall thoughts and then the longer details down at the bottom if you are really interested and want to have more of a discussion, it will obviously contain spoilers.
Overall I thought that this book was a fantastic piece of writing and the description of things was some of the best. I was really impressed all the way through. It was completely immersive and had some of the best usage of 2nd person I have seen. I was completely in love with the circus and all of the different tents and the acts that were inside of it.
The characters that are involved in the making of the circus were so intricately done, and well developed, I enjoyed all of the insight and extra details that they brought to the plotline and the circus as an overall experience. Celia and Marco were well developed and complex, there was nothing left to chance and they were all made to be magical in their own way.
The storyline and plot was fantastically done, the different times and the progression of events was natural and moved in a slow arc and allowed for a climax and a wind down. It was like taking a deep breath in and letting it go slowly, it was a relaxing read and it made me extremely happy.
The first thing I have to say is really relevant because it is the first thing you are faced with when reading this book and that’s the brilliant way the author brings you into this wonderful circus of dreams. I loved it. I thought that the use of 2nd person was so well done and so well placed throughout the book that I felt as though I was completely engrossed. It was a wonderful feeling, I could write about this particular part of the book for thousands of words, but I can’t. My final word on it – FANTASTIC.
The unconventional arrival of Celia with the suicide note pinned to her coat really sets the stage (pun intended) for the rest of the book, the sense of mystery that surrounds this girl from the beginning is threaded throughout and this is just the beginning. We get a look into the type of story we are dealing with, when Prospero, Ceila’s father declares that he is in fact a real magician and he actually downplays his tricks in order not to blow his cover. Between the 2nd person and this declaration the way that the world worked, in my mind was well-formed and blowing me over.
The introduction of yet another mystery character, and this is where the story begins to have more of a substantial direction for it move in. There is this idea of a game introduced, and opponents are seemingly chosen. Celia who seems to be a natural talent and a young boy, Marco, the best of three picked up from an orphanage. This is where the interesting things begin happen, the difference in teaching patterns and the way that the students react to different stimulus. The man in the grey suit as he is coined, prefers to allow his student to learn by reading and transcribing, whereas Prospero’s methods border on torturous, including slitting his daughter’s fingers open until she can heal all ten at the same time, and smashing her favourite doll. For me these differences were an important insight into the inner workings of the game and the sacrifices being made early on.
I loved the idea of the notebooks and the tree of notes that Marco has created being described as a forest. I loved this image, especially imagining all of the notebooks lined up together on a bookcase. It was one of my favourite images throughout the book, and one that seems to be entwined throughout the circus and scenery surrounding. This was definitely one of my favourite things about this book, the ability to take an image and run it all the way through the narrative.
The change in Ceila’s father, and the way that he made himself disappear. I thought that for me it signified the way that most parents are an invisible force behind their children, and her father has gone one step further and actually made himself invisible. I loved the way that he would crop up throughout the book and push his ideas onto Cela and latch onto her life. I thought that it was really well done and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I really enjoyed the idea of not knowing what they were eating and the fact that it allowed the people to think more about what the tastes were and actually appreciate their food. I live with a chef, and so I completely understand the idea of people inhaling their food because they think they already know the flavours involved, the description and the way that this scene plays out was definitely some of my favourites throughout the book.
I think that throughout the book, the clock and the way that it becomes the centre point for the whole circus and I couldn’t get over the way that it was described. It was beautifully done and the way that it introduces another character took my breath away and it was definitely one of my favourite things about the circus. Something else that made me really excited was the description of the magic and Ceia’s tricks, it was really well done, and it was seamless. It could have fallen flat and ruined the entirety of the novel, but the way it was done was beautiful and I was so grateful for that.
The magic of opening night was wonderful, and I thought that this part of the book was pure magic. It made me fall in love, with the circus with the acts and the way that everything works together. The lighting of the bonfire, with the archers and the different coloured lights, it was really well put together. I loved the idea of the twins being born on opening night and Chandresh (owner of the circus) already planning their act and what their role at the circus was going to me. The imagery was so vivid I loved it, it was almost as though I was there living it. It truly was one of the most magical parts of the book.
I loved the In Memoriam plaque that is mentioned without specifying who, adding more mystery to the already mounting amount against the circus. It was wonderfully done, the intricacies of time and the way that it was done so it was a moment of revelation was a really nice surprise and one that kept me guessing for quite a few pages.
The image of paper being transformed into something else is something that is all the way through the book, a whole room in Marco’s flat, a complete replica of the circus including the the smell. Earlier on he makes pages of handwriting fly around the room as though they were birds, it is a common theme and something that made me enjoy the book even more, I am even inspired to make my own paper birds to hang around my flat.
I loved the ideas of the circus being a chess board with Marco adding rooms in the tent and awaiting her response with another. It was a way of giving us an insight into the two personalities and the way that they thought about the competition and responded to the differences in their characters.
The dark side of the circus is something that equally fascinates me as much as the good. The realisation that the circus is stopping them from aging and protecting them in a certain way was impressive, but the confrontation about this information and the untimely death of Tara and Herr Thiessen set shockwaves through me. I thought that it was handled well and it wasn’t too much. It added a much needed darker side to the story, which is only added to as it progresses.
I enjoyed the natural ease of the relationship between Marco and Celia and all the way through nothing felt as though it was forced and there was no crazy insta-love. It was wonderful, and it swept me up as though I was the one falling in love. The speech pattern between the two of them was some of the funniest and best written I have read, I thought that the way they interacted with each other was completely natural and added to the effect of them falling in love. One thing I would say was that I found that at times the characters were a little head of their time and the way they acted wasn’t as though they were brought up in the 19th century. However this is still one of my favourite bookish romances and the way it was executed really made me happy.
I thought that the consequences of the game was well entwined with all the other character’s lives, the way that Tara died and then as Isobel’s jealousy takes over the circus. I thought the fact they had either figured out or had been told they were all added extras in the whole circus setup but still went along with it all, added some really interesting dynamics and gave the characters a whole lot more depth than I was expecting.
The introduction of the previous game players made a big impact on me, especially the idea that the scars last longer than the games I thought that this was so powerful. The way that the now grown twins figure out the game and the pain that it causes them. It was immensely painful and also well done, also adding to the overwhelming darkside of the circus.
We are finally in the home stretch, so well done if you have managed to stay, way to go.
The ending I think was perfect, I thought the way that they worked it was wonderfully done. It had been foreshadowed all the way through and in some ways it was ironic. I loved the fact that they had worked it so that there was a loophole but there was still a sacrifice, it still wasn’t the happy ending that we really wanted. I was so impressed with the transition from the 19th/20th century to modern day and the use of email.
That sums up my very long ideas about The Night Circus and I am so sorry that this review went up late, but I have been battling killer migraines and haven’t really been up for writing on this blog.