The Night Circus has been a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while, but it wasn’t until I was having a quick look through the shelves at my local library after finishing How to be both that the spine jumped out at me and I picked it up. I realised I didn’t actually know what the book was about – save for a circus – but the blurb doesn’t reveal much more than that either.
The Night Circus is a story of magic and love, one of mystery and intrigue, and one filled with beautiful images and elements of fairy tales. It centres on the Le Cirque de Rêves – the Circus of Dreams – which appears without warning in undisclosed locations around the world and only opens from dusk until dawn. There are tents with acrobats soaring at great heights with no nets, illusionists who perform feats we cannot comprehend, a garden made entirely of ice, and a bonfire with white flames. But the circus, for all its magic, serves a darker purpose than its visitors imagine. For Le Cirque de Rêves is the stage for a dangerous game which pits two young protégés, who have been trained since childhood for this very purpose, against each other.
Morgenstern is a great storyteller, weaving the intricate lines of the tale before bringing them together wonderfully. The act of reading the book almost took me back to reading as a child, when I’d get completely lost in a world so different from reality. There’s also an old-fashioned storytelling feel to the book, added to by the use of an omniscient narrator, which contributes to this feeling.
Also taking me back to reading as a child was the circus itself. In The Night Circus Morgenstern has created a magical circus that I long to be able to visit. And while the novel has a love story at its heart, for me it is the circus which takes centre stage. It’s enchanting, magical, and highly imaginative – the tents Morgenstern has created are marvellous and the descriptions throughout are wonderful. There are small, vivid details throughout the book – like candlelight catching in a glass or a particular smell – which instantly conjure an image or a scene, placing me in the novel. The book’s imagery has a cinematic feel too, from the vast tents and magical rooms to the feats performed by the magicians. A quick Google tells me that a film is in production. It’ll be interesting to see the book adapted for the screen, but there’s a magic between the pages of this book that I hope isn’t lost in the process.
Truly placing the reader in the book are small chapters throughout which take you around the circus or to a particular tent – we are told what we smell, what we touch, what we see. This technique is a wonderful addition that places you directly in the book and the circus itself, which adds to part of the book’s magic for me. Yet for all the wonder and magic at the circus, there’s a subtle, darker edge to it which is played out expertly.
The Night Circus feels a perfect read for this time of year when you can escape the dark and cold outside and get lost in the world of Le Cirque de Rêves. The book has been produced beautifully with a visually stunning cover which contains hints as to what’s inside the book, black edged pages, and a red ribbon bookmark, which is a great touch. The circus is enigmatic and charming, and perhaps my feelings for the setting overshadow my impression of the book as a whole, but it’s hard to separate them. The story of The Night Circus is intriguing and I was hooked from the first pages, but I think it’s the circus which is the highlight of the book for me.
Have you read The Night Circus? What did you think?