Does it mean anything that three of the books I’ve enjoyed most in the past year have similar color schemes in their covers? Perhaps there is some strange literary convergence taking place or a new form of subliminal marketing. In any event, I would suggest these to anyone looking for a slightly “different” sort of book.
The Night Circus This is a complicated book to explain but a wonderful experience both in print and audio. Words I’ve used to describe it include “fantastical,” “inventive” and “dream-like.” During the late 1800s/early 1900s two young people, Celia and Marco, become pawns in a rivalry between two ancient magicians. As they explore the limits of their abilities, they also determine to find a different outcome to the competition than the one mapped out for them. While I often felt distanced from the characters (until the appearance of the wonderful Bailey), I was drawn into the magical world of the circus. It is not often that I so strongly wish that an imaginary world could be experienced in person. I’m not surprised that it is being made into a movie as it cries out to be explored in a visual medium–I just hope the film does justice to the book.
The Snow Child Another story that stretches the limits of the reader’s willingness to suspend disbelief. Based on a Russian fable, the story follows an older couple as they decide to become homesteaders in 1920s Alaska. They had hoped that their grief over being childless would abate as they left their families and the familiar, and certainly they have much to distract them as they learn how to survive the harsh Alaskan wilderness. So is it the result of longing, despair and/or the harsh conditions that they begin to glimpse a young girl who seems to exist on her own in the forest?
City of Thieves is the darkest of these three titles, but it is relieved by an absurd humor. Set during the siege of Leningrad, a starving boy is caught scavenging. To avoid execution, he is given the impossible task of locating a dozen eggs for the wedding cake of a general’s daughter. He is paired off with the jaunty Kolya, a young soldier (who may or may not be a deserter) who is sure they can survive–in style. A thought-provoking story of courage and friendship that will have you alternately wincing and smiling.