Morgenstern: Magical, Mesmerizing, and Memorable
Summary: Le Cirque des Rêves (‘The Circus of Dreams’ in French) was aptly named. All black and white and only open at night, it becomes a place where dreams can come true—at least until dawn. As elaborate as this many-tented circus seems, it is but a stage—a venue for a competition between two magicians. And these competitors break the rules by becoming lovers, putting their lives, the circus, and the livelihood of all the circus performers at risk.
Review: I have not been this enchanted with a story since I read my first Harry Potter book. This from a reader who does not particularly care for Fantasy. But, Morgenstern’s novel cannot easily be tucked into the Fantasy category—it is so much more. Beginning in the late 19th century, it is too timeless to be called Historical Fiction. Shrouded in mystery, it cannot accurately be categorized as a Suspense novel. And although it involves a touching love affair, it cannot truly be labeled a Romance, either.
A treat for all your senses, Le Cirque des Rêves delights all who attend—both young and old. And that especially includes the reader. We are both hypnotized and warmed by the bon fire’s glow; awed by the Illusionist’s magical feats; and enraptured by Widget’s fantastic tales; all the while becoming intoxicated by the aroma of caramel apples and the “fantastically delicious cinnamon things.”
Characters: The characters are many, yet well defined and quirky—from the star-crossed lovers, Celia and Marco, to their “masters,” Prospero the Enchanter and Alexander; from the owners and planners of the circus, including Chandresh and Madame Padva; to the circus performers, including Tsukiko, the contortionist and Poppet and Widget, the red-headed twins and kitten trainers. Each adds to the charm of the story while helping to drive the many subplots forward to a surprising conclusion.
Themes: Book Clubs will have tent-loads of discuss material with themes such as Competition vs. Collaboration; Time vs. Timelessness; Illusion vs. Reality—and who determines which is which; Balance vs. Chaos; and Truth vs. Ignorance. Reading discussion guides can be found on line.
It reminded me of: Readers of Chocolat, (by Joann Harris) and the Harry Potter series (by JK Rowling)—especially the earlier ones—will enjoy the light-hearted magic; while those who liked Water for Elephants (by Sara Gruen) and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb (by Melanie Benjamin) will want to read it for its insider view of what it’s like to run off and join the circus. But be warned, this is not a children’s book as there are a few dark turns here and there.
In Closing: “You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Rêves 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.” I felt the same way as I turned the last page, disappointed to leave the charming world of Le Cirque.
Morgenstern writes, “The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones.” Enchanting, ethereal, and enthralling, The Night Circus casts a pleasurable, fine spell, indeed.
Information and Fun Links:
Hardcover, 387 pp; Doubleday
Visual Scrapbook, by Haley Keim
Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus Mix (I suggest listening to this “soundtrack”, while perusing Haley’s visual feast of a scrapbook, above…)