The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
A magical circus that revolves around a mysterious game of illusion and enchantment, with a love story thrown in? This sounds absolutely perfect for me.
And it was. I absolutely adored The Night Circus.
The book was suggested to me last year by a friend in my teacher book club. She and I have very similar reading taste (her ringtone is Harry Potter, which had me running down the hall to find the source, only to pop in her room – instant friends), and she suggested I would love The Night Circus. Well… it was one of those books. You know the kind… the ones that you download, meaning to read but always forgetting what it’s about and putting it off toward a “later date.” Except then it was chosen for the next book club. Apparently, the stars were in my alignment.
The Night Circus is beautiful. It’s full of all of my favorite literary elements: magic, love, intrigue, multiple narration (okay… that’s a hit or miss depending on the book), stories within stories, and imagery. I was there. I could smell the caramel apples and taste the chocolate drizzled popcorn. I could see the big tents, striped in black and white, and feel the crunch of straw and grass under my feet. I wanted so badly to be able to go to the circus, wander it’s tents and get lost in the magic. I wanted to make a wish on the wishing tree, smell Widget’s aroma-stories, feel the ice garden around me, get lost in the labyrinth.
The story is centered around a mysterious circus, only open at night, that comes and goes without warning or prior acknowledgement. Many of the tents are filled with wondrous and mystifying elements that defy the average Ringling Bros. circus (plus, no clowns!). Unbeknownst to the circus goers, and many of the entertainers, the circus is really a platform for a to-the-death challenge of illusions concocted by rival “magicians,” blinded by stubbornness. The magicians come from differing schools of thought on magical education, and must elect a player to compete in the challenge, bound by magic and kept in the dark about the true nature of the challenge itself. Within these confines, the Night Circus blooms and grows, and love ripens across the players, as is wont to do when two perfectly matched persons are pitted against one another (Romeo and Juliet rings a bell).
Yes, there were some negative elements – I felt the love story should have been introduced earlier and caused more ripples and tensions, and the beginning Marco-Isobel relationship wasn’t clear at first (I thought Isobel was a fake name for Celia, as did the school librarian). Additionally, the ending was predictable, in some manner, thanks to the foreshadowing, though maybe the English teacher/Film major in me is too clever for my own good.
The negatives, however, were greatly outnumbered by the positives. This book really grabbed me and immersed me into its world. There weren’t any characters I found unlikable, and the believability of something so fantastic was still present. I never found myself questioning holes in logic (then again, it IS magic…, and I WAS raised on Harry Potter…), because the magical elements were rooted in realism. According to The Night Circus, while some of us are born with natural abilities, others can simply learn it through books and study, though the power of magic and its teachers has greatly dwindled over time, and when not looking to believe, it is easily missed. On a side note, this is probably one of the reasons why I’m so gullible. Books tell me to believe or it isn’t true, so I believe. Same thing happened with Peter Pan (I do believe in fairies, I do, I do!), and I’m still waiting for that Neverland flight…
The Night Circus takes the reader back to the end of the 1800s, and jumps narrative from the three primary perspectives of Celia, Marco, and Bailey, with the occasional secondary character thrown in for plot development. Celia and Marco’s stories begin in the 1870s and continue until the story’s climax in 1902, whereas Bailey, introduced to the reader in 1897, mostly takes place in the book’s “present,” 1902. It isn’t until the end that the timelines converge. The unusual timeline of the book allowed the characters to be introduced to us at their own leisure, at the right timing – which, as we all know, timing can be crucial.
The Night Circus made me happy. I imagined a place, only open at night, with contortionists, acrobats, and illusionists; with the best circus food imaginable; surrounded by mystery and delight; where every experience is a unique one; with my one of my favorite color schemes (black, white, and for the fans, red); where you can float on clouds, gaze at stars, and stare into the endless white bonfire.
The Night Circus is truly magical, and has rightfully earned a place on my bookshelf among my favorite books.