Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Finished: October 20, 2011

Synopsis: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. [via goodreads]

Quote: “You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Reves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus. You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.”

Thoughts: The Night Circus is such a beautiful tale that I don’t feel that words in a review can do it justice. This is a story of both timing and fate. Of love letters made of magic, and of sugary confections that make you want to run to the kitchen in the middle of the night. It is the story of The Circus of Dreams.

The circus itself became a character for me, and was perhaps my favorite character of all, but I didn’t feel that the other characters in the story were neglected. I absolutely adored Poppet and Widget. They are born to the circus and travel with the circus as they grow up. It feels like their perception of the circus grounds is the most magical and also the most intimate. The two magicians chosen to compete and create the circus, Marco and Celia, left me feeling as though I was always watching them from a bit of a distance, and would never be able to get quite as close as I wanted. This may have been due to the third person narrative that the majority of the book was written in. For the most part, I felt that the choice to write the novel this way was perfect, and allowed the reader to experience the circus from all possible perspectives. We saw the circus from the eyes of those in the circus, of those on the outside but tied to the circus in some way (whether by choice or not) and through the eyes of the dreamers who deserve to be cited separately from the others. Their dedication to the circus - to dreams - causes them to follow the circus around the world. Wouldn’t we all love to follow our dreams so far?

There are also occasional chapters written in the second person that allow us to experience the circus as if we are there. The author speaks to the reader directly and invites us to this magical circus to experience the sights, smells, and tastes for ourselves. I found that the perfect setting for reading this book was curled up in the dark (the circus only comes out at night, after all) with a sweet smelling candle lit. It really added to the ambiance, which seems important, because it felt to me that this story was more of an experience than just merely pages bound together in a book.

I think it’s important to mention that despite all of the praise you see above, this book was definitely written with a specific sort of reader in mind. If you don’t have a fondness for stories that revolve around the circus, are annoyed by very descriptive writing, tire easily of stories that jump around a lot and contain many threads, or can’t abide a book that doesn’t have a great deal of action, then you will not like this book. However, if you love to watch magical worlds being built in the charming sort of way that I’ve only previously seen accomplished by Rowling and Gaiman, then you may find something here that you will fall in love with and miss when it’s over. You may just become a dreamer yourself.


Five out of Five Coffees


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