Nothing I write can do this book justice. It is simply stunning and I definitely encourage people who enjoy an element of magic realism to jump into this magical book.
‘The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.’
From its opening words, this book captivates the senses and the imagination. What particularly struck me is Morgenstern’s use of the second person, which enhances the sense of realism a reader has while delving into this story. These second person accounts of the circus, while not the whole book, are an immensely valuable part of the reader’s experience, making us a part of the story.
The third person accounts follow the story of ‘Les Cirque des Rêves’, a circus all in black and white which opens only at nightfall. Celia and Marco are players in a game, whose rules even they are not privy too. The circus is their venue and this is what makes it extraordinary. While there is some magic involved, the skill of the magicians lies in their power to make it seem real, entrancing the mind and senses of the visitors without hinting at the supernatural.
My favourite character, however, was Friedrick Thiessen. He was employed by the circus to create a marvellous clock, but instead fell in love with the event. He was the intitial ‘réveur’, a group of people who follow the circus and write about its wonders. I was drawn to him because the circus turns this ordinary man into an extraordinary one, one who has connections all over the world and is the unofficial head of a society devoted to the love of this mysterious and wonderful circus. I think I mostly adored him because he is a massive fanboy!
The book’s 490 pages span more than twenty years of Celia and Marco’s game, and seventeen years of the circus and its development. We are kept in check by the Murray twins – Poppet and Widget – born on the eve of the circus. As they grow, so too does the circus. I found the chapters surrounding them a fun additional insight into the lives of the circus performers. Their relationship with an ordinary boy, Bailey, lets us see even more wonders of the circus as they take him through their favourite parts.
Anyone who knows me, knows the speed at which I read. However, I preferred to read this book slowly. Its beautiful descriptions and fascinating story entranced me and I didn’t want to miss a single bit!
And I have never wanted to visit a circus more! Instead of one big tent, there is a collection of smaller ones, each filled with wonders. Contortionists, a Hall of Mirrors and fortune tellers but also a Labyrinth, a Wishing Tree, an Ice Garden, a Pool of Tears and so much more. You have to read it to understand the love and adoration it is possible to feel for this book and its setting. I am well and truly a ‘rêveur’ after reading.