The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was like a dream and a fairy tale for adults (I think it even says that on the back). How someone can take such short, simple sentences and turn them into mental images of such grandeur and mystery and beauty blows my mind. Morgenstern isn’t a lyrical author, but she is a painter with words.
The story is of Marco and Celia, two illusionists. Both are raised from children to understand that their illusions are part of a contest of which they know no rules. The contest eventually involves a magical, surreal circus that captivates the places it visits- and captivates the people that visit. Once Marco and Celia meet and realize that they are opponents, the fate of their lives, the circus and the performers is a jeopardy.
The novel begins in the Victorian era and it has a very steampunk feel to it. I could see some cosplay come out of this. I read it and thought what a great movie or TV series this would be (if Hollywood can meet/exceed reader expectations), but alas, there isn’t yet one despite the screenplay having been sold in 2012. Surprisingly (or maybe I missed it?) there is no mention of the turn of the century despite this story crossing over into the 20th century. I thought there could have been something extraordinary about this change included with the circus, but there was not.
Morgenstern attempts to create two time lines- a current one with a young circus-goer named Bailey and a past one that creates the backstory of the circus and the contest. You realize that the two will intersect towards the end of the book, but I didn’t feel it was that necessary, as it wasn’t until the last 1/3 of the book that I even realized they were on different paths. Bailey’s relationship to the circus doesn’t become exposed until the end, and even then it is not made totally clear. One interesting note- the author RARELY uses the word magic to describe anything in the book. If the word is used, it seems as if it is a dirty word.
Beautiful story about love, relationships, death, illusions and whether our paths in life are truly ordained before we exist.
I originally purchased this book at a bookstore in St. Thomas. I like purchasing books by local authors when I am in a foreign country. It was written by Tiphanie Yanique, an author who was originally from The Virgin Islands.
I started this book late last year, and admit, it took me a while to get into it. At about 1/3 of the way through, I was hooked, and off we went on a beautiful, torturing, mythical journey. It is the story of two sisters from St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands- Eona and Anette. The first bit of the book talks about their parents, where they came from and when the girls were born. The rest of the book is about the sisters’ loves, children, and lots and lots about the island itself. Having been there, I loved reading about the familiar areas where we had traveled and imagining them in this book. St. Thomas (and the surrounding islands of St. John, St. Croix and Anegada) were strong characters in this story.
This is historical fiction, and includes the events of World War II, the Korean War, the Civil Right’s Movement and the purchase of the island by the US from the Dutch. Other events include a hurricane (Mary) and a protest by the islanders to keep the beaches public. The timelines at times didn’t line up for me. Anette has a child when her husband goes to fight in WWII (and she is still youngish), but then mentions she is in her 30s when it seems as if she should be much older (given the age of her children). The author does admit to taking some liberties with the timeline. I also love that the author explains that much of this story is based of her own mother and grandmother’s lives, and that they went to Anegada, where her grandmother’s family was from, but had never been. This tied up the book nicely.
And just for fun, here is a picture of me reading Land of Love and Drowning with one of my cats, John Snow. #johnsnowisalive
And finally, if you’ve ever wanted to travel to St. Thomas, may I recommend the Allure of the Seas Cruise Ship, operated by Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines? We used this ship to get their last September and it is indescribable, as the second largest cruise ship in the world (shorter only by 1 foot from its sister ship, Harmony of the Seas).
This is Joyce Carol Oates as her lightest…Lauren Kelly is just one of her pseudonyms that she wrote under for a brief spell. For those that find JCO difficult to read, this is a lot easier…less stream of consciousness, more precise story telling.
However, keeping with her typical dark style, the The Blood Mask itself is very JCO. Diabolical, a little confusing and twisty, slightly morbid, though not overtly grotesque. It is the story of Annabelle (who becomes Marta), a teenager sent to live with her rich, art-influenced (influencing) aunt after her parents become incapable of caring for her. What first seems like a dream come true (moving from a broken home to a mansion) quickly becomes a nightmare of manipulation, unrequited love and a struggle to prove loyalty.
A pretty quick read, yet not amazingly profound in any way. Great for those who’d like to dabble in a little JCO to peak behind those dark brocade curtains of her mind.
Today’s Backlisted Book Review is The Cat Who Came In From The Cold.
As an animal lover and veterinary technician for over 20 years (credentialed, and specialized, thank you very much!), Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson has written books that I can really appreciate. He understands animal behavior and the human animal bond in ways many veterinarians don’t understand. Finding this small volume at a used book sale, it was not even a question that I would pick it up.
The Cat Who Came In From The Cold is a fable; a fairy tale about Billi, an Asian Leopard cat who is the first wild cat to chose to be domesticated. Unlike dogs, who love being around humans and other animals, cats are solitary and fear many other animals. It takes place in India, and touches on the hypocrisy of how animals are portrayed in different religions. The word billi means cat in Hindi.
Billi frequently sees young children and a dog pass under his favorite branch in his favorite mango grove. One day, he strikes up a conversation with the dog about living with humans. Billi remembers stories his mother told him as a kitten of being around humans, and he has never been able to let go of his curiosity. He goes on a discovery journey to find out how other animals feel about humans. His knowledge and curiosity finally get the best of him, and when the time is perfect, Billi inserts himself into the human world in a very brave and beautiful way.
This is a beautiful story, very quick read, great for kids as well. It warms my heart to have this in my head now as to how my own cats have come to honor me with their presence. The end of this story touched me personally as well, given the experience I have had with my own cats caring for me when I was battling cancer and chemotherapy. ❤