Sunday, 25 August 2013

Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor and Park
Source: Goodreads
Title: Eleanor & Park
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Series: no
Published: 2012 by Orion Books
Source of book: the library

Synopsis from Goodreads

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, ELEANOR AND PARK is the story of two star-crossed misfits – smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under.


Sometimes I fail to recall how strongly a really good novel can affect a person. How it can dazzle, make you sizzle, break your heart, melt your brains, gently make you forget where you are and what the time is. Eleanor and Park reminded me. This is the love story of the decade, maybe even the century, a new Romeo and Juliet. I would like to thrust this book into any romance-lover’s hands immediately… or anyone’s hands, really… For me this novel was as close to flawless as any novel can be.

She is quirky, with her mismatched outfits, ribbons tied around her wrists and a shocking tangle of crimson hair. She is strong, facing her everyday life of poverty and a fear of abuse. And yet she is lonely, a new girl at school, friendless and hiding her life that is full of misery and anxiety.

All of these and more are the reasons I love Eleanor and truly felt for her situation. Her worries concerning her weight, her stepfather and her home balanced by her love of books and music, and her growing feelings for the boy next to her on the school bus make her appealing to the reader and a very much realistic, fully three-dimensional character.

Park starts off as an average guy – never messing with the school bully, reading comics and listening to his Walkman. Maybe the reason I found Park such an amazing character was that he definitely isn’t perfect. He cares about his reputation in the eyes of his classmates and doesn’t think positively or kindly about everyone at all times.

All in all, Park feels like a real, normal guy, not some Edward Cullenish supernatural freak, and that honest portrayal of him makes him exceedingly likeable – maybe because I relate to having faults like his. However, he develops as a person, and that makes him admirable as well, and the progress happens at a realistic pace.

The story
Rainbow Rowell’s talent in telling the story of Eleanor and Park has without a doubt woken my interests in becoming acquainted with the rest of her works. The pacing of the story is wonderful and unrushed and the profound thoughts throughout the novel resonated with me strongly. Due to the characters’ convincing backgrounds, personalities and conversations I truly felt like I was reading a true story about true people. Nothing felt exaggerated, overly polished or improbable and I delighted in that.

Perhaps the very best aspect of this incredibly well-written story was the web of relationships between characters – and the best of all was the slowly growing romance between Eleanor and Park. I can safely say that this pair is one of my top five favourites in literature and that their tale will stay in my heart for years. I beg those readers who have not yet had the chance to fall in love with this couple to give them a chance – I am certain many of you will be enchanted, like I was, by the very first page.

5/5 The best book I have read all summer – sweet, almost bittersweet contemporary romance that touched my heart and made me cry!

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus
Source: Goodreads
Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Series: no
Published: 2011 by Vintage Books (Random House)
Source of book: I bought it

Synopsis from Goodreads
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.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.
My review
The Night Circus dumbfounded me. I imagined it would be something quite different – more normal, or predictable, or such – but it snatched my expectations away and shook them until they fell into pieces at my feet. And then it enchanted them into a flock of pure white doves…

The plot

The beginning piqued my curiosity immediately by its uniqueness and somehow, vagueness (as though it places key hints but reveals, in fact, nothing) – a magician and a curious grey-suited man meet and make a magically binding deal involving the magician’s daughter and another, not yet chosen child.
From that moment on Morgenstern starts to spin a fantastical tale which feels slow at first, introducing the reader to people and their stories at a gradual pace. After a while I grew used to this style of writing and it felt natural concerning the storyline and the era. I became invested in practically all the characters’ little intertwining stories, and was hungrily curious to what it would all add up to in the end.
It has to be said that this novel has a complex, convoluted, sometimes nearly confusingly immense and multifaceted plot, involving thousands of little twists, hints and details. Sometimes this felt unnecessary, like there was too much information and detail to digest, but sometimes, as the storylines gradually twisted themselves together, it felt just right. In many ways it suits the circus because it is, as well, convoluted and complicated, and yet an entity.


The world-building

And oh, how I love the circus… I dream to experience such magic. The main setting to The Night Circus is of course Le Cirque de Rêves, and I applaud Morgenstern for this astounding, simply spellbinding venue. The circus is quite other, and I love its strangeness, the tangible magic that can be sensed inside its perimeter, all the different performers and tents. The imagination behind it all strikes me silent.

The late nineteenth century was described well, in my opinion. Though I am no professional in this time period it felt to me like the historical setting burst from the pages. I liked to watch the circus move around, as well, through many different countries, though the different cultures of its destinations could have been brought to light more.


The characters

With a unique circus there have to be unique people. In that aspect, I wasn’t disappointed and found the personalities of the characters to be diverse and intriguing. Perhaps they weren’t all exactly likeable, but I was interested by their roles in the story and their relation to the circus. The main characters Celia and Marco were appealing to me, and I became fond of the twins, Bailey and the clockmaker Thiessen.
Though I had the impression that The Night Circus was a love story, I personally think after reading it that it isn’t, really. It’s true that there is a romance aspect but in my opinion the circus itself is the core of the story. This wasn’t a bad thing; I enjoyed reading about a non-living thing being so crucial to a novel.

4-/5 Though sometimes a bit long-winded, The Night Circus is a feat of awe-inspiring imagination and a novel that enchants!