My rating* – 2.9
This review contains spoilers.
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 Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance. – Book Description courtesy GoodReads
I wanted to like this book and I tried hard to. But like the two magicians trapped in this monochromatic prison of their own “creation”…I too felt trapped in the imagination of Erin Morgenstern. And this was not a good thing.
“Fierce competition” my ass. This “competition” was a beautiful ballet of tit for tat. Nothing fierce about it. While reading this book I kept getting the feeling that the writer was envisioning how the scenes would look on the silver screen. While at first tolerable, Morgenstern went into so much detail in some cases about the “amazements” of the circus that after a while it was just boring. She would do well to learn that it’s okay to let the reader’s imagination do the heavy lifting sometimes.
There are two suicides and a murder, so there is that. But it felt gratuitous somehow. This circus does not have animals thank the literary gods for that, but there are ageless magicians with no shadows (vampires?) and some ghosts thrown in for good measure. There is glass-shattering sex which made me laugh out loud. Also not a good thing. Celia and Marco’s love story is wooden and there were shocks of red hair everywhere. Oh and Morgenstern must have said the circus smelled like caramel at least 10 times.
I gave this book an almost 3, because the prose was well written but other than that I just wanted it to get to its point. I think some of the scenes will be magnificent to see on-screen – the book is being made into a movie this year so Morgenstern has achieved her real goal.
My favourite line was:
- Wine is bottled poetry.
Because you will need lots of it to get through this book. There are fifteen different POVs and keeping up with the time jumps gets tedious very quickly. Good luck making the relevant connections. This book had potential because it deals with some pretty heavy stuff – love, death and living a life worth living, dreams and dreaming and how we perceive the world around us. But it never quite gets there. The story is slow and the descriptions of everything while beautiful is ultimately boring.
I will however, go see the movie because Hollywood magic – beautiful actors, awesome soundtrack and the power of green screens, with an explosion thrown in – just might take this story to level it was trying so hard to achieve otherwise.
*my personal quality ratings are the scores I give books on a scale of 0-5 based on my personal opinion of a book. 0 is “birdcage liner” and 5 is “off-the-hook good”