the night circus

Remember when I told you that I’d be revisiting my bookshelf, to rave about my absolute favorite books? And explain why it is that I love them so? Well, today, I thought I’d introduce you to the first on that list. Drumroll, please……

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.” (summary found here)


The Night Circus is, in one word, enchanting. I have never read a book that is so incredibly rich in imagery, beautiful and sensuous. One of my deepest joys in reading is being drawn into a multi-dimensional world, a world of taste, texture, and smell. And The Night Circus is just that. The main character in the book is the circus itself, and so the story is not as much about what happens, but what is: think of a wondrous and whimsical Cirque Du Soleil, but with true magic secretly weaving throughout the acts. Yes, there are characters and there is a plot, but the heart of the novel is found in the garden made entirely of ice, or the tent full of memories, or the wishing tree, where one person’s wish is lit by another’s. Morgenstern’s imagination is incredible, and she exquisitely builds a world that is fantastic and yet just believable enough to make you hope that it all could actually happen. The writing is lyrical, sometimes reading more like poetry than prose, and the ending is achingly bittersweet.

To be fair, I must mention that The Night Circus has somewhat of an ambiguous storyline: the point of view shifts frequently and the timeline is nonlinear. Ultimately, the plot itself is saturated with mystery rather than clarity. Although the blurb above mentions “a fierce competition” and “a remarkable battle”, the book is not full of action, but is instead slowly meandering and subtle. And some may find that frustrating. But it’s just so good in every other way that even my type-A personality was wooed.

A favorite quotation, for your delight:

“They stand entwined but not touching, their heads tilted toward each other. Lips frozen in the moment before (or after) the kiss. Though you watch them for some time they do not move. No stirring of fingertips or eyelashes. No indication that they are even breathing.

“They cannot be real,” someone nearby remarks.

Many patrons only glance at them before moving on, but the longer you watch, the more you can detect the subtlest of motions. The change in the curve of a hand as it hovers near an arm. The shifting angle of a perfectly balanced leg. Each of them always gravitating toward the other. Yet still they do not touch.”



5 responses to “the night circus

  1. Pingback: bottle it up « Let the Words Escape

  2. Just picked this one. Hope it lives to the histrionics surrounding it. 🙂

  3. Pingback: the time traveler’s wife | Let the Words Escape

  4. Pingback: the tale of despereaux | Let the Words Escape

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