A tightrope walker called Danu loses both her parents on the same day and she has to learn how to live without them.
Years later the circus she’s in travels to her birthplace which leads to desires she never realised she had.
Family, romance and a hint of magic.
The book comes out today and I have to say this it is brilliant … but the cover and the descriptions of it are really misleading. They’re not wrong exactly but don’t quite represent the story very well, but I’ll talk about that at the end.
This is just a beautiful story about how grief affects the main character, Danu. Her parents die when she’s 15 from a virus that spreads across the circus they’re part of. She becomes both overwhelmed and numb to everything, including towards the man that is clearly in love with her, Morrie. She’s vaguely aware that she deeply cares for him, she trusts him enough to live with him and share everything with , but she is insistent that they are just good friends who have a tightrope act together. They live together for years in a caravan but in different beds, despite what others in the circus believe.
I got the impression that the part of the reason for not being with him is because of her still being mourning for her parents and something that happens before she really notices him. She finds it hard to trust and I loved that that every time she did get overwhelmed with emotion she deep cleaned, like she could release that emotion with physical activity, or distract herself.
Plot wise I really like how everything is done. It feels like it gets straight into the story – spoiler I guess – as the first page starts with Danu’s father having died maybe an hour ago and her mother dying. It’s actually really depressing but works well with the story, though it is a shame that we can’t see how the grief has changed Danu by showing what she was like before. After this everything slows down. The book spans years and you can feel it. You can feel how years pass yet feel like nothing has happened, just reinforcing Danu’s emotions. It wasn’t till I started writing this review that I realised just how much actually did happen.
The half way point marks a change. The pace picks up a bit, we really get the idea that Danu is searching for something even she doesn’t know and we get some changes in POV. I both love and hate the other POVs. They’re of Morrie, and strangely enough a house which is so interesting – there’s another one but it’s not that important. I love hearing the different voices and I’m fascinated with how these different … people?…. view Danu. The only problem is that it made me dislike Morrie. I liked him before but seeing how his mind worked changed that. I mean there was a hint of it before but it was never really noticeable. That doesn’t mean that he is a bad person, it just changed how I viewed him. Again, it worked well for the story.
There’s a kind of poetic, otherworldly feel to the writing which works well for Danu’s character – she writes stories and comes up with haunting, anthropomorphic acts for the rope – and perfectly describes how alone and numb she feels surrounded by people. The use of music just adds to it, it actually reminded me of reading a Shakespeare play when I read the first song. It also adds a sense of timelessness to the story. I went into reading this nearly blind. I knew that there was magic as I picked it from the fantasy section and that was it really. So I had no idea about the setting, I’m still not sure really. Technology is kept to the absolute minimum, mainly because of the travelling circus aspect and there’s no direct reference to our world, though there is a mention of four feathers meaning cowardice in the past and possibly of the Alfred Tennyson’s poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ (it’s not named but the plot summarised).
Just on a side note before I rant on the cover and description. I have no idea why but the ending kept making me think of Philip Pullmans’ ‘His Dark Materials’. Anyone else get that feeling after reading it?
Onto the rant.
The cover, which I love, gives a sense of the supernatural. I asked my mum what she thought it was about based on the cover and she said something to do with magic or vampires … Well there is a bit of mystical in the book but it’s not a main part of the story and other than say Tarot cards the first bit of magic isn’t till half way through the book. TBH, magic doesn’t really have an effect till the last quarter of the books. It’s not a bad thing.. i guess that depends on your POV… I’m just commenting on the cover.
Now the descriptions of it. Goodreads and Amazon describe it as an “an entrancing love story between Danu and Morrie”. Again, the ‘romance’ between the two is part of the book and runs all the way through but it’s more subtle than a love story and not really what the narrative focuses on.
This story really is about Danu and how she wraps her grief around her. She keeps her father’s bootlaces wrapped tight around her ankle and her mother’s locket like a choker. The locket is a major part of the story. Danu doesn’t open it till years after her parents death, despite her never taking it off, and she only does just before the circus leaves her birthplace in a moment of desperation. What’s in it was definitely not what she was expecting.
The book perfectly mirrors her grief with the tone and writing. I’m not sure I could read the first couple of pages again because they brought up so much emotion but it is beautifully done and would highly recommend this book to read.