The Night Circus

I haven’t blogged for a week because I’ve been sick. Sick, sick, sick. Fevers of 103 (and upwards!), aches and pains and chills, oh my! It all boiled down to a wicked tangle with strep throat. Yuck. I spent two entire days vertical (praise the Lord for my amazing husband who kid-wrangled and let me moan and writhe in relative peace), and felt very contrite for all the times I’ve heard that others were sick and thought: “Buck up, princess. Take some DayQuil and get on with it.” Uh, it doesn’t always work that way. I know that now. And if I ever implied that you were a baby when you were sick, I apologize from the bottom of my heart… Although the bottom of my heart is also quite sure you couldn’t possibly have had it as bad as I did. 😉

Any-hoo, somehow in the midst of all that agony, I found time to start reading a book. And oh, what a (wonderful) mistake that was! Have you ever tried to read a book when you’re half-delirious? It makes for some interesting interpretations, let me assure you. But even though I wasn’t entirely myself, I can tell you with confidence that The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is one of the best books I have read in a very, very long time.

I won’t bore you with a summary (you can skip to her website to read that), or give you a full-blown review (there are already well over 300 of those on Amazon), but I do feel the need to take just a moment to tell you why The Night Circus captured my heart these past few days.

The power of the book is not in the characters — at least, not for me. I enjoyed the characters well enough, and hoped for their happiness and well-being, but I can’t say that I was deeply invested in any of them. At the climax of the story, I may have held my breath for a moment or two, but there were no tears. And I cry a lot when I read. But in order to weep over a book I have to feel deeply connected to the characters. Such was not the case with The Night Circus.

Nor was the plot an edge-of-your-seat nail-biter. It was exciting enough, and I loved the handful of unexpected turns that Erin tossed in for good measure. But I didn’t love it for the plot.

Or the prose. It was nice. Nothing particularly note-worthy there.

But oh, oh the setting of this book…

I know. The setting? Who falls in love with a book over the setting? Me, apparently. This was hands down the most atmospheric, ethereal, haunting book I have ever read… And all because of the La Cirque de Reves. I fell asleep at night to the scent of caramel corn (which is probably why I’ve had it for two meals straight now — darn power of suggestion) and the anxious hum of the crowd. There is a cornfield at the end of my street, and this morning when I left to run some errands, I couldn’t help but scan the expanse of fresh-harvested earth for the telltale sign of black and white striped tents. Alas, they weren’t there. But oh, how I wish they could be…

Atmosphere is a big deal to me. I love it in my books, and I love it in my life. Candles and conversation pieces factor into my decor, our backyard is an oasis of colors and texture and sound, and even going out to eat is more pleasant in my mind if the atmosphere hits the right note. And that doesn’t always mean fancy… One of my favorite restaurants is a bar filled with big screen TVs and my favorite beer on tap. Our waitress knows us by name. But that’s beside the point. After reading The Night Circus, I’ve got setting on the brain. Is there a book in your library that has a remarkable sense of place? I’d love to hear what it is…

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