I’m currently two thirds of the way through this book, needing to have it done by the time my book club meets in January. I started it on Wednesday of this week, and have a feeling I’ll be done before I go to bed tonight (which is pretty good, considering the only time I have to read for fun is on the subway). I am positively obsessed with this book, and it has already earned a place in the All Time Favorites section of my book recommendations page. But with the holidays coming, I’m a bit bogged down and don’t really have the time to write a review. Perhaps you’ll get one in the new year. Until then, my friend Meg was kind enough to help me out — enjoy!
THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern
Published September 13th, 2011 by Doubleday
Erin Morgenstern’s dark, enchanting debut takes us to the black and white tents of Le Cirque des Reves, a circus that arrives without warning, simply appearing when yesterday it was not there. Young Celia and Marco have been cast into a rivalry at The Night Circus, one arranged long ago by powers they do not fully understand. Over time, their lives become more intricately enmeshed in a dance of love, joy, deceit, heartbreak, and magic. Author Morgenstern knows her world inside and out, and she guides the reader with a confident hand. The setting and tone are never less than mesmerizing. The characters are well-realized and memorable. But it is the Night Circus itself that might be the most memorable of all. –Chris Schluep, Amazon.com
I love magic. This does not surprise anyone. So when I started reading reviews of this book in the months before it was released, reviews that contained lots of praise and enthusiasm for the enchantment and the imagination in the novel, I thought, “Okay, this might be something I have to pick up.” But then I promptly forgot, as I often do, and didn’t think about it again until one fateful day my mother (who works at Barnes & Noble) came home with a copy of–you guessed it–The Night Circus. She said, “I’ve been hearing a lot about this book, I thought you might like to read it.”
(My mother knows me too well.)
If we’re counting the hours it took total, I read this in less than a day. It was addicting, and so unbelievably beautiful. What I love most about the book, and I think this is probably what charms most people about it, from the reviews I’ve read, is the magic itself. The circus ismagic, it’s a celebration of it, and it’s a celebration of that gorgeous, lifting feeling you experience when you share something with another person. The creativity of the circus itself–the idea of it, the passion put into it by the characters and the author herself, and the way it evolved–is definitely the highlight of the book, and I think the way the chapters are set up to frame each new exhibit only emphasize that more.
But I’m also a sucker for a good story, and when a story talks about the nature of stories and story-telling within its own pages? I’m sold. The real magic in this book isn’t the tarot reading, the tricks of illusion, the spells or even the numerous wonders inside the tents–it’s in the realization that life is its own story and its own magic. And the telling of our lives and the lives of others is also magic because of the influence it has and the inspiration it gives.
There were some technical aspects of the book that I felt could have been better. The ending, specifically, I felt could have been better executed. It felt rushed in some places and after so many pages of such dedication to detail and world-building, that stands out. A big part of that, too, is that I wish there had been more about the instigators of the competition and the competition itself. I think there’s a lot of meat there, a lot of deep thinking that could have been done about responsibility and consequence–for magic and for the relationships we have, the “magic” we have on others–but the focus remains mostly on the two caught in the challenge and the circus that grows around it. I’m left wondering more about that world and the two men who seem to be its pseudo-puppet masters.
But when all of that’s said and done, the beauty of the circus and its culture still leaves me smiling. The idea that magic exists in us, in our stories and our relationships, that it is part of who we are even when we can’t necessarily feel it, is something wonderful and unforgettable.