It’s a fairly warm afternoon but the chill of an incoming rainstorm hangs in loose ribbons around my table. I rarely sit outside for this sort of thing—the bugs and random wind chill are really bothersome—but tonight I make an exception. I prop my bare feet on the bench and open the book in hand: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I had heard plenty of acclaim for this novel; my friend named a stray cat after one of the characters and a professor of mine sang its praises just days before I started it. While the book itself wasn’t heavy, the expectations weighed it down.
With the hymns of Goodreads users and verbal reviewers in my mind, I gently open the paperback cover, careful not to break the spine of the borrowed book. Almost immediately, the refreshing scent of ink on paper combined with the domestic scent of everyday life fly from the dust motes and transport me into the text.
The circus arrives without warning.
The wind picks up and flips the pages, words springing from every sliver of papyrus. In surprise, I throw the book in the air and gasp at the sight of it rising quickly into the trees above. All of a sudden, the words that escaped assemble in front of me. As a I read a word, the next appears slightly behind it, leading into the forest. Without a moment of thought, I push back my chair and wander forward. Minutes pass and reality has disappeared, leaving lightning bugs in black and white in its midst.
As the monotone mist clears, I see tents rise and pop like a cartoon. Faerie lights line the edges, giving the entire scene a hazy dreamlike feel. I take a hesitant step forward and the path materializes beneath my feet. More tents seem to appear as I navigate the circus; hours, possibly days could have passed before the scene explodes around me. Without warning, I’m back in my chair with the book nestled safely against my chest.
All right, fictional scene aside, The Night Circus is something special. Maybe I won’t go into excruciating detail about the wonders that lie between the pages—you’ll thank me for that, I promise—but I can tell you why it struck a chord with me. Nay, not just a chord… it performed a symphony.
You may think this is a bad thing, but it’s probably one of the best things that could have happened to this novel. The description on the back of the book (at least for the Target Book Club edition I read from) advertises The Night Circus as a story about the romance between two main characters, Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair. While this is true (not a spoiler because it’s on the description, come on), there is a romance, it is certainly not the central plot. The circus itself is the center of attention and the descriptions of how intricate and intertwined it is within itself make it deserving of the central focus.
Call It Magic
For something that is purely seen and not uttered by the characters in this book, Morgenstern does a fantastic job with describing the brands of magic Celia and Marco employ. You can’t even see it happening, but after so many pages you learn how to differentiate Celia’s powers from Marco’s and what their limitations are. You learn the names of all the circus members and what they do, to the point that just a simple name drop makes you recall everything that’s happened to them thus far. The magic of this book is definitely within the magic itself, but it’s also within the circus itself. Every tent exhibits something different—again, I’m not explaining because the descriptions are worth experiencing unspoiled—and when you finally close that book, the longing you feel is something unlike book hangovers felt before. It’s like a wanderlust after you return home from abroad.
But that Romance Though?
CELIA AND MARCO FOREVER. I honestly can’t say more, because I’ll ruin it. Read. This. Book.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is worth experiencing. You might tell your friends that you “read” the book, but you’ll know deep down that you “experienced” it just like the rest of us. It might not be an adult form of Harry Potter, but it makes you believe in the magic of circuses and love.
Sources: Desktop Images, Amazon, GIFSec