I had thought that after reading this novel a second time, it would be easier to review but fuck was I wrong. Reading it again put me in even more awe of it because I noticed things the second time around that I missed the first. I find that reviewing it now is even more daunting because my words are insufficient to adequately describe the….um…see I’m already failing to come up with an adjective worthy of this novel. Amazing? Awesome? Astounding? Why do they all start with “a”? Regardless of my lack of vocabulary, this is a novel that will illicit more emotions than you thought possible while confusing you and making you wonder why they heck you keep reading.
It’s a bit difficult to summarize this story because it encompasses so much. The most basic description I can give is that it follows two characters, a girl named Celia and a boy named Marco, for a very long period of time, almost thirty years in fact. Both have only been told that they are a participate in a game but their respective teachers refuse to give them any more description than that. How do you win the game? Who is my opponent? How do we compete? What is the purpose? They are never told. But both strive to succeed to attain the respect of their teachers. The only thing that becomes clear is that the venue for the competition is Le Cirque des Reves. This tale follows the pair throughout the duration of the challenge.
The above description does not even begin to do justice to the sheer loveliness of this story. But, before I start fangirling, I’ll state what will annoy the daylights out of you, at least on your first read. The main source of the confusion is the way the story jumps around. Though the tale is “mainly” about Celia and Marco, it has many, many (many, many, many, many, many) more characters and it jumps around from different perspectives and even time periods. One moment you are reading about Celia being trained at a young age, then you jump ten years in the future to the perspective of a boy named Bailey who has nothing to do with anything beyond the fact that the circus arrives in his town and he falls in love with it. Then you jump to a clockmaker in Germany who is commissioned to make a special clock for the circus. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. For the first half of this novel, you can’t make any fucking sense out of it. I remember thinking during my first read how I wished it would just stay with Celia or Marco because I found the pair so interesting, but alas, my wish wasn’t granted. Though now, I’m glad that it wasn’t because I appreciated the many perspectives so much more during the second go. It jumps to completely unrelated sequences in the most haphazard fashion imaginable. Where the fuck is Erin taking this story?!?! How the hell are all the people’s perspectives going to line up in a way that makes sense? Why the fuck am I still reading this infuriating thing?!?!?
If you stick through the first half, well you are in for a treat. In the second half, everything starts coming together. Celia and Marco meet and fall in love like we all knew they would and everything actually does wrap up rather nicely. All the random people start to become connected with the story in ways you weren’t expecting and it made me wonder how the author managed to write something so stunning that I was in speechless. The first comment I want to make is that the writing is gorgeous. Erin Morgenstern writes in this brilliant way that describes every setting perfectly, but not in that overly dull, I’m wasting your time writing five pages describing this utterly plain England countryside way that some authors insist on doing (::coughs:: JRR Tolkien ::coughs::). It just completely enchants you to the point that even though it’s irritating the fuck out of you, you keep reading, if only to see the elegant way the story is portrayed. You grow to love all the characters, even the ones that you have no idea how they relate to the story.
This novel is that perfect fairy tale for adults that we’ve all been craving. It has that indefinable magical quality that hooks into you and leaves you seeing stars. It is the type of book that demands a second read, possibly immediately after the first because you see things through a different light. I’m hesitant to make this comparison because these two novels are nothing alike, but it demands a reread the same way Fight Club does because after everything is revealed in the end, you see so many things more clearly and completely differently than the first time. It’s utterly fantastic and I recommend it to every single individual on this planet with access to it and the ability to comprehend it.
****Thank you to Vintage Books/Anchor Books for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review****