Harvill Secker, $32.95, October 2011
The Night Circus is an astonishingly rich and detailed work of the imagination, bringing to life a world firmly grounded in late nineteenth century England and, within it, a small group of people with magical powers.
Two shadowy master magicians pit their prize students, Marco and Celia, against one another in a duel which neither of them wanted nor fully understands. Their arena is a travelling circus, the Circus of Dreams, which is a mix of illusions and real magic, circus artists and magicians – acrobats, a tarot reader who can indeed see into the future, an ice garden, jugglers and an illusionist whose feats are not tricks. Only after Marco and Celia find themselves in love do they discover that their duel can end only in death. Or can they escape the trap their teachers have so callously constructed?
Twilight has driven a surge of interest in paranormal romance but The Night Circus rises far above that level, beautifully written and seamlessly integrating a wealth of esoteric knowledge. It merits comparison with Susannah Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which won nearly every fantasy award in its year of publication. That was a debut novel, as is this. History may be about to repeat.
• Review written and first published in 2011, added to this site in December 2020.
Townsville’s skyline is dominated by Castle Hill, and its peak provides wonderful views of the city and the region, from Hinchinbrook Island (on a clear day) to Cape Cleveland and beyond, with Magnetic Island floating beautifully in Cleveland Bay.
This photograph is an old one (2005) but it’s still one of my favourites, perhaps because it was taken much earlier in the day than I usually visit the hill.
• Plenitude is now over ten years old and this review, added to the blog in January 2021, was first published in 2010. Ten years is a long time in terms of our understanding of climate change but Schor’s analysis and conclusions are as relevant as ever.
Global warming, Peak Oil and the instability of our financial system mean that Business As Usual will doom us and the next generation to miserable lives in a degraded environment.
Yes, you have heard it all before (and may or may not believe it) but Juliet Schor has an answer: ‘Plenitude’, her term for an alternative to BAU which avoids any eco-miserly austerities but will give us happier, richer lives while avoiding eco-disaster and another financial melt-down.
How can we do it? We must simply move gently out of the mainstream economy by reducing hours in traditional employment and making up for lost income by moving towards self-sufficiency in food, reducing our use of fossil-fuelled energy by installing our own renewable power supplies, reducing our narrow dependence on our employer and our nuclear family by strengthening ties within our broader local community.
Yes, you have heard it all before (and may or may not believe it) but Juliet Schor (Wikipedia) is an economist and she argues for the ‘alternative’ ‘green’ agenda from economic necessities and benefits, not shamanist mysticism, and supports her thesis with an impressive array of references. Cutting back on our ‘day’ jobs, she says, will help re-balance an economy which has grown over-dependent on debt-fuelled over-consumption, and reduce the environmental pressures which are a direct result of that excessive consumption.
Writing as an economist, Schor provides a valuable new rationale for the greenie programme.
Recording an eye-opening trip with Intrepid from Bangkok – NW Thailand – Bangkok – Siem Reap – Angkor Wat – Tonle Sap – Phnom Penh in 2009.
For more, and larger, photos of Angkor see my photo gallery, Teachings of the Buddha.