The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.”
Who could resist such an opening line? I admit, I chose to read this book because it had a nice cover. The back of the paperback edition gives little away but the opening line mentioned above. So, I picked it up and read it. Needless to say, I could barely put it down.
The story is about two magicians who are pitted against each other in a duel but it is no ordinary duel. They have to outdo each other with creating exhibits for Le Cirque des Rêves until a winner is decided. But alongside this runs a romance that is threatened when the competition starts to reach its stunning end.
The imagery in this story is wonderful and atmospheric. You can almost hear and smell the circus, close your eyes and the exhibits are real. The characters are interesting and likeable, drawing you into a world that is impossible but you keep hoping otherwise. The author creates a world that reappears as soon as you open the book and pulls you through to the end.
When I finished the book, I turned to the front and started again.
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Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I didn’t really know much about Charles Dickens before I read this book. I’ve read a number of his novels but never appreciated them in the context of his experiences and the events occurring in his life at the time of writing. So I decided to find out more.
Claire Tomlin has written quite a few biographies of famous authors and this book was released for the bicentenary of Dickens’ birth. Tomlin manages to weave a detailed account of his life with some interesting anecdotes from Dickens’ own letters to family and friends. In and amongst, she also critiques the novels and puts them into the context of his rather hectic life.
I found the book to be easy to read and even though it was full of detail, it never stopped being readable and you don’t feel bombarded with information that is uninteresting or irrelevant. It certainly made me appreciate his novels as a snapshot of London life but also how the author was feeling at his time of writing. It puts into place why his books became more disillusioned and showed a darker edge to Dickens.
Tomlin doesn’t pull any punches with critiquing his novels – many of which she is quite scathing about and has evidence to suggest that even Dickens’ friends also felt the same. She does such a good job of portraying Dickens that you feel disappointed at him at times but also his despair when he watches as family and friends start to disappear.
A very enjoyable read and I certainly know a lot more about this great author than I did before.
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