I did say it would just mysteriously appear...the circus quietly settling into place overnight, and don't miss Kimbofo's evening of adventure at the fabulous launch party for The Night Circus earlier this week. There is a raft of publicity for this book most of which has passed me by down here where we are much more exercised about the fact that dogs may be banned from Tavistock's Pannier Market, and Seth Lakeman says this is ridiculous because the market was built for animals in the first place and his dog Bernie wouldn't be able to get his sausage from Bob's Cafe... and I didn't get the gift-wrapped edition of the book either so wasn't particularly alerted to anything special about this one.
But I think backalong we had safely ascertained that Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus is not Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus and that to make any comparisons would be plain daft.
Nor did we think that anyone who writes anything that even vaguely tiptoes around the magical realism genre harbours ambitions to create another Harry, or is attempting to be the next J.K.Rowling
But I probably would make comparisons with Susannah Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (and you can read why I loved it here) if only for trying to decide what may be the allure of the book with the black-edged pages. They don't all work their magic, but when they do, and the contents have that genuine feel of the night, and mystery and darkness about them I'm a sucker. But then turn the page and find a black page with a burst of stars across and that feels like a little bit of a magical invitation too.
Marco, the 'sorcerer's apprentice' and Celia, the 'enchanter's daughter' are to be opponents in a contest of magic not of their own choosing but of their respective masters, and one that will be played out within the mysterious confines of Le Cirque des Reves. The circus that appears at night, opens to the public only at night and mysteriously moves on at night, constructed only in black and white and who can know where the train that glides smoothly and quietly may pitch up next, perhaps Dresden but might be Concorde, Massachussets, as it strives for 'uniqueness in a world of sameness'.
And sometimes I realise I want that 'uniqueness' from a book too.
Incidentally I don't often read a book without a dust jacket but this one I did because a really nice surprise lies beneath the UK edition (and my apologies to Erin Morgenstern, I'm afraid I stole this picture off your blog and without even asking)
It is 1886 and The Night Circus requires some sharp attention to the dates at the beginning of each chapter. Expect yourself to be whisked forward and then backwards in time as Erin Morgenstern weaves and unweaves her tale and then blends it back together again, as Marco and Celia aim to outwit each other with their magical powers. The fin de siecle setting gives the book that perfect sense of uncertainty and revision, a time of change with the unknown promise of the future, and as time is manipulated around a central motif of the circus clock, a fantastical 'dreamlike' apparatus, and clock-making generally, the book seemed to create its own time warp around me.
If I'm honest I can't say I was completely won over by the 'life-affirming love story' or even 'the deadly contest' because in many ways for me the plot was buried so deeply in all this magic and nipping back and forth in time, that I was hugely and pleasurably distracted. Especially by the way in which Erin Morgenstern's astonishingly vivid imagination made the unbelievable believable...in other words I fell for it all, and how I wish Great Western could sort out the Entertainments Carriage on their trains like this...
Inside the train is opulent, gilded, and warm. Most of the passenger cars are lined with thick patterned carpets, upholstered in velvets in burgundies and violets and creams, as though they have been dipped in a sunset, hovering at tiwlight and holding onto the colours before they fade to midnight and stars...'
It would just make the trip to London so much more enjoyable.
The book is incredibly visual, rich with imagery and blazes of colour against the black and white backdrop of the circus with its occasional accents of red, so no surprise that the film rights have been snapped up on this sensory reading experience. If it goes into production it will be a sumptuous extravaganza of a film and I'll be there, because it has doves in it of course and I will be wearing a red scarf with cables for sure (I predict a craze and a Debbie Bliss pattern for one any day)
There is illusion and delusion, shape-shifting, manipulation and deceit, misdirection and more often than not all is definitely not what it seems as the story unfolds, and if you are as unforgiving as I am of entire books written in the present tense, in this case, as you read you will see why it is necessary. The present tense embraces shifting time whether past or future, it is actually always the present ...see I can hardly make sense of it myself, you need to read it to see how well it works.
And yes I was enchanted, and I did run away with the circus as young Bailey does, and as I closed the book of course I came back to reality gently wondering whether I was supposed to be thinking, how long before Bailey meets Mr Barnum.
Erin Morgenstern acknowledges several influences at play here...The Tempest, Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and she does pay homage to Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and its battle of the magicians which I am delighted about...I still recall the Christmas that nearly never happened here because I picked that heft of a book up about a week before and disappeared into it much as I have done with The Night Circus.
So there you have it, if magic's not your thing then worry not, but if you are in the mood for some enchantment keep an eye out, the Le Cirque des Reves might just be heading your way once it moves on from here.