The Night Circus
By Erin Morgenstern
Every once in a while I read a book that is written so beautifully that I find myself stopping periodically to reread passages and ponder them for a few moments before continuing on with the story. The last book that truly captivated me like that was Markus Zuzak’s The Book Thief. I have yet to meet him with my special London 1st edition hardback copy for him to autograph, but I do hope to get the opportunity one day. Two week’s ago I read another book that stopped me in my tracks multiple times over the course of my reading with its lyrical prose. This time it was a new book by first-time author Erin Morgenstern called The Night Circus. Erin’s magical Victorian black & white circus and fantastic array of characters has certainly captured this librarian’s heart and her book will stand proudly in my permanent collection of favorites.
The story takes place between 1873 and primarily the early 1900’s. It follows a competition of sorts between two different teachers of magic and their chosen protégées. All of the action pivots around Le Cirque des Reves, a sensational travelling circus that opens at dusk and closes at dawn and is dressed in a glamorous black & white theme. At the entrance to the cirque is a custom-made black & white striped clock by a master German clockmaker. Matching tents with unusual circus performances are built behind the clock. Erin delivers a story rich in detail so that as you read her words you can see it, feel it, taste it, smell it… The foods are intoxicating and exotic and the sights are like no other place. One can find a maze made of clouds, a garden made of ice, and statues that come to life.
“The woman’s skin is shimmering pale, her long black hair is tied with dozens of silver ribbons that fall over her shoulders. Her gown is white, covered in what to Bailey looks like looping black embroidery, but as he walks closer he sees that the black marks are actually words written across the fabric. When he is near enough to read parts of the gown, he realizes that they are love letters, inscribed in handwritten text. Words of desire and longing wrapping around her waist, flowing down the train of her gown as it spills over the platform.The statue herself is still, but her hand is held out, and only then does Bailey notice the young woman with the red scarf standing in front of her, offering the love-letter clad statue a single crimson rose.”
Time skips around as the tale unfolds, each layer instilling more and more depth to the characters and the tale. It mysteriously arrives and departs its destinations without warning adding to the magic, mystery, and wonder. Marco and Celia, the main characters involved in the competition, are emotionally tangled as well and contrasted against the stories of young Bailey and Poppet, a secondary potential blooming romance. The Night Circus is one of those delicious rare gems that upon closing the final page I felt nothing short of complete satisfaction.