I seldom re-read books. Tempus fugit, and all that. Plus my TBR shelf growls and snarls at me, every time I walk by, which I do many times per day. I resolutely averted my eyes, ignored the miserable muttering from the books imploring: read me! read me! me-me-me! Instead I re-entered Erin Morgenstern’s magical world of The Night Circus.
I read the book when it first launched in a fireworks-flurry of promotion, hype, excitement and cultish rapture. Our Book Club bought a copy and I read it super-fast, because other members were hounding me, so I rushed through the story, barely comprehending the ending, in order to pass the book along to the next eager reader. I recall enjoying the story, but being vaguely puzzled by the rapturous reception. I have met readers who, upon finishing the book, raced to the nearest bookstore to secure their own copy, and have , by now, eleven years since publication, re-read it many times over. I used the word cultish earlier. I stand by it.
So how did the book perform, the second time around, after a much slower, careful read?
It certainly scores top marks for atmosphere, and for originality. Erin M weaves a skilful spell when it comes to creating ambience, otherness, magical delights and sensuous experiences. And no, the book is not dripping with sex. A little restrained eroticism, yes, but no purple pages. What does drip off the pages is esoterica, by way of runes, sigils, symbols, arcana, tarot, white doves, stars, misleading mirrors, vanishing doorways, smoke and mirrors . Like I said, very, very atmospheric.
The plot is more comprehensible the second time around, but I disliked the hoppy-skippy approach to time. My only complaint. The characters were acceptable, the major characters came across to maximum effect. Basically, its a story of two master magicians involved in a power struggle via their apprentices, bound to their masters, and set to complete a mysterious, unnamed challenge. Love and sacrifice are demanded, and given, but all finally ends well.
Did I enjoy it? Yes. It was an engrossing, atmospheric read.
Will I dash out to buy a copy? No.
I expect, by now, you’ve all read it. What did you think?
P.S.: Here’s the bookmark I used for this read. “The Weaving of the Enchantress” by Thomas Matthew Rooke (1842-1942). It struck me as the perfect bookmark. I keep old, favourite postcards and re-use them as bookmarks.