Summer Reading 6/9: The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (2011)

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (2011)

I have teeny confession to make – this book was actually number 5 on my reading list.  Shock! Horror! Gasp!

I was finding The Fault In Our Stars easier to review and this one got bumped down my to do list.  I hope you can get over my deception.

So I’m now talking about The Night Circus by Eric Morgenstern.  Where to begin? I’ve had the good fortune to discover some really beautiful writers in the last few weeks and Erin Morgenstern is certainly one of them.  The Night Circus is a feast for the mind’s eye, packed with gorgeous, dreamy imagery that completely transports you.  Set primarily in Victorian London, The Night Circus is the story of a fairytale travelling circus that only opens between sunset and sunrise.  The circus is secretly sustained by the efforts of two young magicians – Celia, the Illusionist and Marco, who works as an assistant to the circus producer.  Unbeknownst to the performers and the patrons, Celia and Marco have been pitted against each other in a competition of magical skill, which they must play out to an unknown end in the wonders they create within the circus.

This novel was a really enjoyable read for me.  It’s kind of like The Prestige meets a Neil Gaiman novel – and the result is this indulgent, fantasy story set in the the late 1800s.  That era always fascinates me – it can be romantic and Gothic while sitting at the brink of the modern world.  The Night Circus made me want to sit down and write, exploring the depths of my own imagination.  In saying all this, the novel was not flawless.  Let’s be critical for a moment.

I described The Night Circus as indulgent, a word a friend of mine used when she was describing it to me.  In some instances, it feels almost as though Morgenstern has let her imagination run away with her, including lovely, poetic passages for the sake of beautiful writing rather than actively moving the story along.  The novel also jumps backwards and forwards through many different points in time.  This can get a bit confusing – particularly when you first begin reading.  When I read non-linear stories, I still like to have a little timeline of events in my head but in this case it was quite difficult to keep track of characters and events.  Most importantly, I was fascinated by darker elements of the story that Morgenstern alluded to but did not fully develop. The big ‘twist’ was a plot point I predicted early and easily – so much so that it felt quite anti-climatic.

However, I read the book quickly, all the way through.  It caught my attention and held it fairly easily.  As I mentioned, the writing is so gorgeous and evocative – you feel like you have plunged into a dazzling dream.  The Night Circus is a romance story at heart and Morgensterm does this well – the relationship is sweet and mature without gratuitous physical descriptions and sexual content.  

It’s funny – this book is so visual that after I finished I immediately thought about how it could be adapted into a film.  During my usual post-reading wiki research, I discovered that a movie is already in the works with David Heyman (Harry Potter) and Moira Buffini (Jane Eyre) set to be involved.  Of course I appreciate that it’s fiendishly difficult translate the images in your head on to the big screen.  It should be interesting to see how it all turns out.

The circus arrives without warning.  No announcements precede it, no paper notices or down-town posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local papers.  It is simply where when yesterday it was not . . .”

2 thoughts on “Summer Reading 6/9: The Night Circus

  1. I finally read this one. So glad i bumped into this review. Can’t thank you enough. Every sequence is visually breathtaking. I loved this book. I will probably read this again.
    I think a scene that left indelible imprints in my head is the one where Celia auditions for the circus. WOW. JUST WOW.

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