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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

by on March 6, 2012

This is one of my favourite kinds of books. It’s a book that has a whimsical quality about it that incorporates magical realism, historical fiction, and a slight touch of romance. Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, The Night Circus, is a work of great imagination and carefully crafted detail. The night circus, or Le Cirque des Rêves, is described as such:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. The towering tents are striped in white and black, no golds and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields. Black-and-white stripes on grey sky; countless tents of varying shapes and sizes, with an elaborate wrought-iron fence encasing them in a colorless world. Even what little ground is visible from outside is black or white, painted or powdered, or treated with some other circus trick.

I loved the way the author told the story. As I was slowly drawn into the magic of this book, a movie began to play in my head and narrating it was this deep, booming voice that added to the fairytale atmosphere. The story begins in the late 1800s with a 6-year-old girl being delivered to her father, Hector “Prospero” Bowen, after her mother commits suicide. It is discovered that she has inherited her father’s gift of real magic which they cleverly conceal as fake magic to perform in front of audiences worldwide. Prospero is a cold man who has no love for his daughter, Celia, and immediately thrusts her into a game she has no choice but to play against an unnamed opponent that will last decades into the future.

I can’t even begin to describe how much I enjoyed this book. If I were to finish writing the book I’ve always wanted to write, I would probably want it to end up being something like The Night Circus. It’s not a book everyone will love but for those that do it is the stuff of dreams and fairytales that enchants and delights at every turn of the page. Every character we encounter plays an equal part in this story but the main attraction is the circus itself. From the intricate details of the inner workings of the clock and the magic of the burning bonfire to the colour scheme of black and white and the magnificent gowns no expense was spared to make this the ultimate circus experience.

While we grow up with Celia and her opponent Marco from childhood to adulthood, the entire tale is timeless. Everything revolves around Le Cirque des Rêves and the love story between Celia and Marco is effortlessly intertwined within it in such a natural and subtle way that you don’t realize how beautiful of a story it really is until after and then it all kind of sinks in and you realize what a gem of a book this is.

The woman wears a dress something akin to a bridal gown constructed for a ballerina, white and frothy and laced with black ribbons that flutter in the night air. Her legs are encased in striped stockings, her feet in tall black button-up boots. Her dark hair is piled in waves upon her head, adorned with sprays of white feathers. Her companion is a handsome man, somewhat taller than she, in an impeccably tailored black pinstriped suit. His shirt is a crisp white, his tie black and pristinely knotted. A black bowler hat sits upon his head. They stand entwined but not touching, their heads tilted toward each other. Lips frozen in the moment before (or after) the kiss. Though you watch them for some time they do not move. No stirring of fingertips or eyelashes. No indication that they are even breathing. “They cannot be real,” someone nearby remarks.

Many patrons only glance at them before moving on, but the longer you watch, the more you can detect the subtlest of motions. The change in the curve of a hand as it hovers near an arm. The shifting angle of a perfectly balanced leg. Each of them always gravitating toward the other. Yet still they do not touch.

– The Night Circus

Subtle. That’s probably the best word to describe this book. It sneaks up on you because you don’t realize how captivated you are until you reach the last page and discover that it’s over and there is no more. If you’re expecting adrenaline-filled sparring matches pitting magician against magician then you will be disappointed. The underlying premise of the book is that of a duel between two talented magicians, their battleground being a traveling circus. But the real story is so much more than that and yet not that at all. I highly recommend this book as reading it simply made me happy. I say, read The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and prepare to be enchanted.

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One Comment
  1. Great review. I’ve just placed it in my wish list 🙂

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