Top critical review
I don’t know what exactly it is. Nor I would ever know.
Reviewed in India on 3 February 2021
There is seldom a book that is recommended on my readers’ group and I don’t know what to make of it. Most recommendations, needless to say, are exceptionally handpicked and experienced. That list is endless. The other, however, which I mentioned formerly, is quite short. To be honest, it is close to non-existence considering the other list. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is, well, one such book. I don’t know what exactly it is. Nor I would ever know. A fantastical romance perhaps? Or a thrilling friendship? Maybe it is a romantic fantasy or friendly thriller. I do not know.
The circus comes without warning. No announcements precede it, no last date mentioned. But it is the circus of dreams. Within it, you will find the dreamers exploring the remotest corners and the newbies crawling into the popular tents. Within it, you will find marvels that haven’t been witnessed before and be spellbound. Within it, you will find a contortionist, a fortune teller, an illusionist, multiple human statues, big cats, and small cats. Within it, you will enchant yourself. Within it, you will live a dream. The circus of dreams.
While Marco stays outside the physical bounds of the circus, Celia remains within. From their zones, they compete for a challenge for which they have been waiting since childhood and that will define their entire lives. Erecting tents with never seen before beauties, leading the patrons on a journey that is like no other. Is this mere illusion or true magic? One would never know.
Despite my intriguing description of the plot (I know it is, LOL) I would not lead you on a nice appraising review. By all means, this review will be all about what I had expected and what I had got. It isn’t going to be goody goody, it is going to be an all-guns-blazing-out-review by an underwhelmed reader.
There are problems in this book, aplenty, or at least for me. There is confusion. From the beginning, nothing is clear. The blurb doesn’t help at all. Who gives such an ambiguous blurb! In my opinion, only those who want you to believe something when it is about something else entirely. Then there is the issue of the timeline, don’t even get me started on it! Back and forth, and back and present, back and forth, and present, back and forth, and back and back, back and forth, and present. Irritating and highly confusing. Who does this! How does one remember what happened when, LOL. I gave up trying to figure it out after 50 pages or so. In fact, I gave up reading entirely the first time and managed to finish this book off on my second serious attempt, after having let it sit on my side table for a month to torture myself into picking it up again. The numerous characters are bland. No depth, barely any emotions, and hardly any thoughts. Except for the fact that the characters have some dialogues, there is nothing else to show that they are different than the inanimate things in the circus. In fact, the illusions were more passionately talked about. More so than the fleeting passion that the protagonists have for each other, a flicker of a romance and then darkness.
There is so much more that could have been explored given the concept, so novel and other-worldly. But the lack of a path leads to chaos, a story that goes nowhere, a story that has multiple ends, a story that leaves its characters and readers in need of more respect. The human relationships could have been less robotic and more humane and the implementation of the story could have been, in turn colorful, rather than the black and white and grey that signifies the circus.
The prose, however, is beautiful, the writing flawlessly flowing from circus tents to city offices. There is a dreamlike aura about the whole thing. But what is the purpose of this book? It is like reading a plotless story. What is the entire build-up of almost 500 pages leading to? Nothing substantial could be held on to. Where is the big reveal? The entire premise is wronged by the end that takes place. And where, o where is the duel that was promised? A real live duel that was pointed towards from the beginning. I would never know.