Alexa Bourne's Fractured Paradise
by Laurey Buckland
A good novella is the equivalent of haute cuisine –fantastic quality that leaves you satisfied yet wanting more. That is how I would describe Fractured Paradise – a well written story, with believable characters that I wanted to get to know even better.
I was intrigued by the conflict between protagonists Rachel Grant, who has gone to Sunderland to honour her grandmother’s wish of repairing her old cottage home and Englishman Aiden Camden who wants to buy the cottage to honour his dead wife’s dreams.
This conflict is as real as the intense longing the pair feel towards each other, but must fight for fear of abandoning their promises. The language Alexa Bourne uses is rich and sensual, creating realistic scenes of love and lust, which only added to the story and were never thrown in for affect or for the sake of it.
But Fractured Paradise is not solely a love story but a suspense, which entraps the reader into devouring the whole story in one sitting as I did. My only disappointment was that it finished all too quickly.
A very enjoyable read.
Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus
Review - Dale Gregory
A confusing début novel by Morgenstern, The Night Circus promises to draw the reader into the magical world of love, competition and the fantastical whimsy of its eponymous carnival. At first glance the book itself, at least the edition I have in front it me, is visually stunning. The old cliché may espouse not to judge a book by its cover, yet the striking monochromatic contrast and beautiful silhouetted artwork on this particular cover sum it up perfectly.
Taking place in the second half of a capriciously imagined 19th Century the Le Cirque de Rêves (literally Circus of Dreams) forms the backdrop for the latest battle between two seemingly timeless magical tutors. Better known as the Night Circus by its apparently monoglot patrons it is a place of majestic entertainment and endless wonder. Appearing without warning or notice, the Night Circus, unbeknown to its followers, exists only to provide an arena for two opposing schools of magic to prove their pre-eminence in a contest known only as 'the game'.
Taking the form of Prospero the Enchanter, an extroverted showman and the enigmatic Mr A. H---, a man so furtive that few can even remember his name; each generation these two magicians pit students of their respective schools of magic against each other. For Prospero, his beautiful daughter Celia and for Mr A. H---, a nine-year-old orphan who he allows to name himself Marco. This contest between Celia and Marco forms the crux of the plot as they inevitably fall in love and attempt to reconcile their feelings with the growing realisation of the true extent and cost of 'the game'.
While I admit that it is difficult to truly express the quality and detail of any plot in so few words without sounding trite ('then Vader chopped off his hand and said he was his father'), plot is not a strong suit of Morgenstern. As a story, The Night Circus is clichéd and overly sentimental complete with poor characterisation and flippant philosophical conclusions about the contrast between dreams and reality. Indeed, the characters often come across as empty, shallow constructs more poor afterthoughts to move the story forward than fleshed out concepts that a reader might truly care for.
Don't get me wrong however, I have no wish to be overly harsh on Morgenstern's initial offering, it was a book I enjoyed reading and will probably read again.
The real beauty of The Night Circus exists in its visualisation. Here Morgenstern is a master at her craft. To describe The Night Circus as a book or novel would be to do it a disservice Morgenstern has created a work that blurs the lines between the written word and the painted picture; for paint she does, the intricate and consummate descriptions of the circus and its inhabitants result in the most impossible setting becoming the most real. Consistent application of the rules of magic within her world, and such vivid and striking prose transform Le Cirque de Rêves from a tired narrative tool into a place I genuinely wish I had the fortune to visit in reality.
Evidently The Night Circus is let down by an antediluvian plot and characters that resemble pretty portraits on which to hang the odd emotion; but what portraits they are. One does not criticise Rembrandt because 'it is only a picture'. Ultimately, Morgenstern has created an amazing yet absurd merry-go-round, a wonderful splash of colour (or monochrome as the case may be) in an otherwise dull scene. But like the merry-go-round, once you get over the initial awe and realise its just a wooden horse going round in a circle, you find an empty story played out by empty characters.