Sooo…maybe something a little odd, but I had an interesting conversation with myself while reading The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers and, since this is my space to talk about books as I like, I’m going to, in a way, transcribe it here. I hope you enjoy this, er, likely circular and all over the place conversation with myself.
Warning: Spoilers for The Ladies of the Secret Circus and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue are directly ahead.
So, Self, why these two books? Why pair them together?
Well, they just kind of jumped together. I wasn’t a big fan of Addie LaRue (actually still need to get my review up, but I’m starting to think over-hyped books simply aren’t my thing), so I was really surprised when I kept thinking of it while reading Ladies. Then again, I’ve started a new series called Books That Remind Me of Other Books, so it kind of feels like a reflex now.
Anyways, there are actually a lot of parallels between the two! Only, I feel Ladies was a lot more interesting than Addie. For one, there were a lot more characters to focus on and I really loved exploring Jazz Age Paris. Jazz Age and Paris are just two things I really enjoy in life.
What kind of parallels? The France thing seems pretty obvious, so what others are there?
The demon, the art and the inability to have one’s image captured, the leaps back and forth in time. I mean, each one is really well done in both books, but I just feel like it clicked better in my mind while reading Ladies. Not that Addie is bad, but I think I was a little mentally bored. Or maybe I just prefer a larger cast of characters. Being focused on Addie and Henry just felt a little boring when I’m used to following several characters within 300-500 or more pages.
Wait. My brain hurts a little. Can we take one at a time? Maybe the demon. I like demons. They’re so demonic.
First of all, the demon in Ladies insists on the “a” for daemonic. There’s a demon in both books. They’re both suitably demonic, but the one in Ladies just had so much more flair. He’s really just one of many in the wider world the story is situated in, unlike the demon in Addie who is basically Satan. The demons have a personal interest in their chosen lady, but in different ways. The daemon in Ladies has a very fascinating familial interest while the one in Addie is more romantic, in a weird, twisted way.
But I really have to go with Ladies on this one. The daemon wasn’t perfectly crafted, but I just loved his dramatics and the reader really gets to see just how daemonic and twisted he is. I wouldn’t say there are a ton of layers to him, but his ability to switch gears at the drop of a hat was so fascinating. He’s exactly the sort of self-serving daemon I always think of. Not that there’s anything wrong with Addie’s demon, but he was just so one note and so obsessed with Addie that it got old fast. He was initially suitably evil, but then he and his relationship with Addie ended up just feeling very stagnant.
Okay, so fun daemon wins here. I didn’t know it was a race. What about the art?
Oh, the Jazz Age played into it so well! I mean, I hate to just go on and on about Ladies (but, since I was actively reading it while having these thoughts, of course it’s going to come out better), but, well, Jazz Age! It was such a fascinating, glittery time with so many different artists. It could have gone for all the writers, and I did like that Hemingway made an appearance, but the art of painting stole the scene. Like in Addie, sisters Esme and Cecile can’t be captured on canvas. They can be painted, but then it disappears the next day. Like Addie, they can’t really be captured. I did like how Addie just couldn’t be remembered. It created a very interesting story for her that easily strikes at the heart since people naturally crave a way to be remembered. But I also liked how it worked in Ladies. It felt like an odd sort of preservation of secrets while in Addie it was just kind of sad.
Both books have a big focus on art. I really did like how Addie involved all the ways she was able to make her mark on the world indirectly through art. It was very visual and a lot of fun. The art is just was prevalent in Ladies, but mostly during the Jazz Age time period since Cecile falls in love with an artist who wrecks havoc on the sisters, but also provides clues for Lara in present times to trace back her family’s daemonic past. It was just enough art for my tastes and I loved how it so clearly connected the past and present.
Okay. Right. Not a race. You mentioned the Jazz Age and present times and, of course, Addie basically lives for as long as she wants, so there must be plenty of travel back and forth in time in both books.
Oh, plenty! Actually, the travels back and forth almost gave me whiplash at the beginning of Ladies. I really couldn’t keep up because it wasn’t strictly 2005 and 1925, but also years in the 80s and 90s. Calculating Lara’s age was not fun. For as many centuries as Addie covers, it was actually a lot easier to keep the time line straight. Maybe it was because it focused on one woman’s life, or maybe it was just better delineated. I mean, I did catch up in Ladies and I really, really liked how it was clearly marked between Lara’s story and Cecile’s as the past was mostly explored through Cecile’s journals. But I do think Addie wove the history in a lot better. It was a very fluid, very easy to keep track thing. In Ladies, it felt a little more just dropped in here and there and most of the story was focused on the present.
I don’t know. Going back and forth in time always seems kind of dizzying.
The idea is worse than the execution. At least, when it comes to both of these books. I did wish for more historical events to occur in both books, especially Addie since I thought it missed a real opportunity for history to happen around her and imprint itself on her and her experiences (it makes her feel almost just as self-serving as the demon with how focused her is on herself and how she impacts the world instead of also how the world might impact her).
Now let’s get back to the major parallel between these two books: Paris!
Oh, there are so many wonderful books in Paris, and France in general as well. I could have drawn a parallel between either and other books I’ve read, but, for some, reason, Addie really just stuck out to me while I was reading Ladies since Addie really did seem to spend most of her long life around France.
Actually, I was kind of annoyed with Addie with how much of her eternal life she spent in France. If I lived an eternal life, I would have explored the world in all the time she spent tinkering around in her home country. I think I probably would have wanted that reflected throughout the book. Home might be familiar and comforting, but there’s so much to see out there! Ladies doesn’t really explore much more than Addie, but it’s not meant to. The characters are meant to exist in Kerrigan Falls and Paris, and Hell, but that’s it.
Anyways, my mind just leapt to Addie right away, for some reason.
Well, the parallels, of course.
Probably. But there was also a very pretty writing style in both books. All the characters were given a distinctly human touch and both were superbly easy to read. I think the major difference just happened to be the stories they told.
Well, yeah, they’re two different stories. They just happen to have a few elements in common.
But you can’t say they’re not unimportant elements! They carry weight in both stories.
Okay. Sure. It’s obvious you enjoyed Ladies more.
I just think it had the better story, at least to me. There was more to it. I love stories with lots of threads and secrets. Addie was kind of a more will she or won’t she decide to go with the demon or keep living her eternal life. Honestly, immortality just feels overrated. I was bothered by just how untied down Addie was. Lara, on the other hand, had lots of people caring about her and stability in Kerrigan Falls. She had a strong family connection, no matter how strange and magical. There were lots of secrets, magic, a bit of a mystery, and a bit of a romance.
Actually, I’m not too fond of how either book ended. That’s one thing they definitely have in common. The endings were a bit of a let down. Oh, Ladies ended on an adequate note and I can fill in the rest, but I wish it had turned out differently. As for Addie, I definitely think both Luc and Addie got what they deserved, but I wish Addie hadn’t been…well…so unlikable. Though plenty of other readers loved her and her story so this is probably just me.
Isn’t it always? (Insert eye roll)
Hey, I’m a particular reader!
Maybe you just like circuses.
I believe Ladies might be the first book with a circus I’ve ever read.
Oh, been there, done that. Actually, The Eight by Katherine Neville explored that a bit, but it was done so much better than anything else I’ve ever read. Then again, it didn’t figure largely, but it was still really well done.
And, with that, I’ll stop needling you. We don’t want to get another book involved!
No, we don’t. I really loved The Ladies of the Secret Circus. It was a lot of fun and had so much depth and so many interesting people and magic around every corner. Compared to this, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue just felt kind of meh. But they’re completely different. Ladies involves a family that shouldn’t have existed and Addie is focused on the experience of a single woman. All the women here have to cope with the way their lives have turned out, but I think I definitely enjoy books with lots of characters. Makes things more interesting.
And…you’re quiet, so I guess that’s it!
Have you read both of these books? Which did you enjoy better?