Saturday, 9 March 2013

Beneath The Magic

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - A Review

As usual with my reviews I will not go into detail about what the book is about, go read the description by the author if you want to know, I will just give my opinions of the book here.

A fantasy novel about a circus is always going to be of interest to me, as that is exactly the sort of novel I write. So when I saw the Night Circus I was obviously interested in seeing what it was like, to go and have a peek at a rival show in town. Novels about circuses are not thick on the ground so it is exciting to find another one that is putting on a fine show, but unfortunately the Night Circus is not that type of novel.

When you watch a magician perform their tricks you should be taken away from reality, into a world where you don’t question where they are getting those doves from, or how are they able to cut a woman in half without killing her. The minute that you start to wonder how the magic is performed is the minute you are taken out of the world. The writing of a novel is the same trick, and the author must use words to take you away from reality. The Night Circus is an illusion that will try to tantalise your mind with its vivid descriptions of the circus, and make you not consider what is below, but it lost this magic on me half way through the show.

At one point I just stopped and started to wonder what was beneath all the description of the tents and quickly realised that the novel was a shallow illusion. The characters are no more than simple faces and names, which you are given hardly any distinctive characteristics for, with little sense of what emotions or thoughts are going through their minds. Development of the cast and plot are swept aside to make room for more description of the circus, and so the novel relies on keeping your attention on the vivid descriptions within, but as I said before this is an illusion that if it doesn’t work will quickly leave you with a hollow feeling about the tale.

The plot is simple and predictable, with a similar depth as the cast. From the very start it is obvious what is going to happen to the two main characters, and when it does happen there is little reason behind it. The ending is given away early by probably one of the only times a character has a deep thought in the novel, and the period setting of the tale could be any as the story unfolds as it really doesn’t matter. So this predictability with no surprises doesn’t help the illusion that is being performed. The whole show makes it obvious what is going to come and when the illusion is broken we only have the hope of being proven wrong, with what we expect to come, to keep us going. The main plot that brought us to the show is almost discarded before the end is reached, with little regard to its importance, so if it was so little to the writer then why bother hanging a story upon it to start with. No grand plans are unfolding here, and the soul of the tale quickly fades.

This to me was a wasted opportunity to explore the world of the circus and theatre, a shallow show empty of emotion. And a can a circus without clowns even be called a circus? To fully enjoy the performance that is the Night Circus you have accept the magic that is before your eyes, to not question where the rabbit is being pulled from. The descriptions are vivid and imaginative, but if you stop for a second to question the show, to take a peek behind the curtain, it will probably lose you from its spell.

And so I leave the rival show disappointed about what it could have been, but remain hopeful that other, grander shows may come along one day to keep us company with their magic words.

Three Clowns