Curiosity finally got the better of me, well that and praise for this novel. I have known about it for years, hearing about its start as a NaNoWriMo story that met great success; author Erin Morgenstern even gave a NaNoWriMo pep-talk about her experience along with advice. However, the little that I knew about the premise of The night circus turned me off from reading it, since it reminded me of Something wicked this way comes by Ray Bradbury about a mysterious circus. Recently, I looked up the novel again and decided to give it a try. I’m glad that I did because it truly is a remarkable work, unique all on its own.
The night circus as a title does not do this novel justice. It is so much more, although the Circus of Dreams (Le Cirque des Reves) purports to be just a night circus and most visitors blindly believe that the only difference between this one and others is the fact that it only opens at nightfall and closes at dawn. In reality, the circus is a playing field for two competing magicians to showcase their very best talents with magic until one is declared the winner. Unlike a typical circus, the night circus contains a multitude of tents, each with its own exhibit or performances. Tents filled with frozen gardens, origami animals that move, an ever-changing labyrinth, and a cloud maze, just to name a few. Bound together by the game, Celia and Marco grow then circus by adding on new tents, rooms, and enhancements, trying to out due each other. However, because of this challenge, the circus requires care and attention as if it were alive so there are many people involved who keep it going as well. This twist on the classic circus setting is captivating and Moregenstern pulls it off beautifully, just like a well-practiced slight of hand.
In stark constrast to The girls, Morgenstern’s sentences are long, lush, and buoyant. The novel itself feels like a fantastical floating dream. The characters and details are so vibrant and extravagant that there is a pervasive richness throughout, adding to the wonder and glamour. It is a relaxing, enchanting, and delightful read.
The novel itself is comprised of dated entries from different characters’ perspective although always in third person. These entries jump from different times and places, moving forward and backward without a clear pattern. This makes for a somewhat disjointed experiences, especially as a few are the same date but a year apart. It’s easy to follow otherwise but the story did jump around quite a bit which gets a little confusing. I love following characters so it’s tough as a reader when I get pulled away to be shown something else before catching back up with the previous character. That being said, I like how Moregenstern reexamines an event or period of time from multiple people, giving a richer experience to the reader by providing more perspectives. While here are two main characters, there is a large cast of supporting ones who the reader comes to care for just as much. I appreciate her letting them speak for themselves and expanding the novel to include many of them as well.
Recommended?: Yes, definitely. It’s a charming novel that envelopes the reader the way a magician entrances an audience. The story might not be for everyone, with its magical elements and dreamy prose. However, if it sounds intriguing and you want something different, then step right up and enter this circus.