In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure-dome decree
Even my casual acquaintances recognise there is a more than a strong whiff of a predilection towards the fantastical and whimsical in my nature, so a book which more than nods to this providing it is well written will have me curious, though I must also say that with a very few exceptions the Fantasy Genre as a whole is one I quickly pass by. Night Circus is fantastical; Night Circus is whimsical: Night Circus is well written
There is nothing i can say about Erin Morgenstern’s creative, inventive first novel that other hugely appreciative reviewers have not already said, but nonetheless feel a need to add my appreciation of this fantastical, immersive book to the rest of the songs of praise and delight.
If you like the darkly glittering world of the magic realism of adult myth and magic a la Angela Carter, chances are this first book (alas, there are no more to read, as yet!) by Erin Morgenstern will snap you into its beautifully formed world and not let go.
As I read this period late Victorian story with shifting time scales and locations, a story of two rival magicians, one working from the outside in, and one from the inside out, to dislocate reality, I was reminded of Carter, of Prospero’s fantastic island (one magician is indeed called Prospero the Enchanter – though his daughter firmly resists being called Miranda), but also, increasingly of the fantastical, dreamy, yet perfectly physicalised world of Coleridge’s poetic fragment.
This is a world to wonder at, delight in, and even more, to yearn to find. Morgenstern describes the physical world of the circus in precise and sumptuous detail, so it feels as if it must be real.
Her story, in many ways, is a simple one – two professional opponents engaged in a game and conflict against each other, stopping at nothing to win. However, the opponents are magicians, disguising what they do as ‘stage magic’ and illusion, though in fact, this is glittering magick – think Christopher Priest The Prestige, though with a feminine, more sensual and delicate sensibility. Not so much steam-punk more sensual fin de siecle decadence and artistry – a sort of Arts and Crafts delight in the stuff of the material world, the costumes, the clocks, the perfumes. Another pointer might be The Stockholm Octavo – since Morgenstern, like Karen Engelmann, has an artist’s, sensual feel for the look and material heft, colour and taste of her world. This is also a love story, and a story which dislocates the reader’s sense of time and place, making us as convinced of this world which shimmers in and out of time and space, as are the fictional characters who visit the circus.
I had one criticism of Morgenstern – she spoiled my love of reading fiction for a while – the brilliant creation of her Night Circus world seeped into reality, and I stayed still half in habitation of it, so was unable to surrender to another author’s imagination. I envy anyone about to start reading this book!
For myself, all I can do is don the black and white, add a small dash of red to my clothing, and hope to be spotted by a fellow reveur who may tell me where the night circus is next due. Magical!
Commons, Flicr – group of reveurs, clearly in the know