Margaret Lea leads a quiet life indulging a passion for reading, working in her father’s antiquarian book shop, and writing biographies of obscure local literary figures and diarists. She prefers the classics and their clear beginning, middle and end; no modern novels for her. So when she’s summoned to Vida Winter’s Yorkshire home to be her biographer, Margaret hesitates. She doesn’t write biographies of the living and she’s never read any of the mysterious Winter’s blockbuster selling books. But an encounter with Winter’s gripping retelling of fairy tales and the mystery of the book’s thirteenth tale engages Margaret. With Winter’s help, Margaret is drawn into a real life Gothic tale complete with troubled reclusive patriarchs, madwomen, deceased twins, motherless children, personal tragedies, moors and not one but two haunted decaying mansions with sprawling grounds. In less skilled hands this jumble of cliches might have been re-hashed into formulaic prose. But Setterfield has taken a timeworn genre and created a poignant story of family, love, separation, and hope with a satisfying beginning, middle and end of her own.
The night circus is an enchanting novel of magical forces, ghosts, and love that might leave you asking, “Did I dream it or was it real?”
The Night Circus appears unannounced at the edge of town, opening after dark and closing at dawn. The circus provides such a wonderful experience to its guests, it has a network of “groupies” clad in black, white, and red who share its location to follow it from place to place. It is, but it isn’t, like other circuses. Sure there’s acrobats, animal tamers, fortune tellers, magicians and the like. But there’s also something sinister at work at this circus. The owners and performers don’t age and some of the attractions seem to surreally defy the laws of nature. The Cirque du Rêves (Circus of Dreams) is at the center of an age old rivalry, played out by young competitors unaware of the consequences of the contest. Is breaking free impossible?
[Lynne M. Fox, Education Librarian]