Everything in this book was a complete delight. Erin Morgenstern‘s writing was intensely visual and theatrical. The details were rich, overwhelmingly real yet represented something otherworldly and unattainable. I can’t say that I have ever read a book that made me feel quite like this. While I was always excited and happy to pick it up, I was never in a hurry, never turning the pages so fast they gave me paper cuts. Instead, I savored this book. I re-read paragraphs describing the different tents at the circus. The clockwork, the tarot cards, the dresses with magical color-changing silks. It was like floating in a river with a steady current. The water is the exact temperature of the air, so there is no barrier between the two. You just close your eyes and let go.
Even though there were many interesting, flamboyant and fantastical characters, it seemed to be a piece not about people, but about the magic and knowledge that was constantly flowing around those people. Because of the multiple points of view, the constant in the book was always the circus. It followed that, as the pages flipped by, the circus became a character unto itself. It wasn’t just a theatrical and sensory-filled backdrop to the drama, but it became drama itself. A thing will pull and desire and manipulation. It became a person.
At first, because of the constant switching between characters as well as the jumps between past and present, I didn’t feel as invested in the characters, but as the book went on, I began to see the web which the author was creating. The presence of the circus began tying together characters who had never met, or just barely. So, in the end, the book wasn’t so much about the character’s desires, but about how the circus influenced them and was influenced itself. This is a really cool thing to do in a book, and the author excels at creating the nuances of the circus, of making it unique, through careful details, expert plotting and luminous descriptions of everything from candlelight to rain to the color of someone’s eyes.
I’m glad I own it so I can read it again and again and again.