Circuses have always been a point of mystery in my mind; something that sets up and sets back down in a week, or even a few days. What happens behind the scenes? In Erin Morgenstern’s only published book, she recounts the events of a circus that has more magic and mystery behind it than any before. The Night Circus, truly a mystical sight from cover to cover, came out in 2011.
The plot follows two characters, Celia and Marco, who have been trained by magicians since they were little. The two must out-magic each other in a future competition, of which they are unaware, which will leave only one of them in the end. I know most people want to roll their eyes when they see another story about magic, but this one is different. Morgenstern paints such a mysterious, haunting, riveting picture of magic that isn’t the typical fantasy novel we see everyday. This book is unlike any other I’ve ever read before, and manages to portray magic and circuses in a whole new way, that makes the book even more intriguing with each read.
The competition ends up taking place in Le Cirque des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams), in which the circus comes up only one night, and then disappears until it randomly shows up in the next town. None of the circus go-ers know that they are standing in a circus that is essentially an illusion, only being held up by the magic of Celia and Marco’s stunning powers. Neither do they know that these two lovers are going to have to prove who is the true winner.
I’ve read this book three times and it never gets old. My favorite part of the book is when Isobel, the fortune-teller, is described in her circus tent. She wears long flowy black clothes with a drape over her head; sitting in the middle of a room with only one table, she pulls out her black and white circus-themed tarot cards and begins to read a character’s future. The cover of the book represents the color scheme of the story; throughout the novel there is a constant theme of the circus’ colors; black, red, white, and silver, creating a mysterious tone from the beginning.
Each chapter starts with a short poem-like page of one particular aspect of the circus, giving the effect that the reader is actually attending the circus and planting us in the middle of the brilliant story. These page-long introductions bring to life the acrobats, wishing tree, cloud tent, or other various tents in the circus from a visitor’s perspective. One in particular mentions a man in a pinstriped suit, and a woman wearing a white ballerina wedding dress that has random spurts of black ribbon attached, who are both on a pedestal, completely still; close to kissing but their lips not quite touching. One cannot tell if the kiss is about to happen, or if it is just ending. Once the chapter starts after these chapter introduction pages, the story follows either Celia, Marco, or other circus members.
Every time someone asks me what book they should read, I recommend “The Night Circus.” It is captivating, and redefines fantasy fiction. What started as Morgenstern’s project for a writing challenge turned into a New York Times best selling novel. Pick up a copy, become a dreamer, and plant yourself into the non-stop, thrilling, dazzling, amazing atmosphere of Le Cirque des Rêves!
Sources: NY Times, ErinMorgenstern.com