The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Doubleday, 2011
Source: Library
Read for: R.I.P. VI Challenge

"The circus arrives without warning." So begins the magical foray into Le Cirque des Reves, a sliver of dreamland that appears without warning, is only open from dusk until dawn, and enchants and fascinates its visitors, often making them devoted followers for the rest of their lives. At the heart of the circus are two enchanters locked into a magical duel. However, as the circus grows around them, they begin to pool their efforts, creating sights and experiences that are more and more magical, until the magic turns inward and compels them to love. Who will be left standing, and will the circus survive the standoff?

The Night Circus is a book that has received a great deal of attention since it was born into the bookstore world two weeks ago. Already I've seen bloggers and readers turn away from it because of the hype. Because of that reaction, I am hesitant to say what I'm about to tell you. I don't want anyone to avoid this book because they don't want to follow popular sentiment or be disappointed in a story that is lauded with too much energy. However.

This book has firmly lodged itself on the hallowed shelf that holds my "favorites." In fact, because I am a weirdo and actually rate books and movies and songs in my head, I will tell you that it is now my third favorite book. So. If you are turned off by hype, please avoid the rest of this post. Please avoid all the other gushing reviews and glowing praise, get the book for yourself, read it, and come back to me. However, if you want to know why I loved it, read on.

Reading The Night Circus is an incredibly rich reading experience. The prose is abundant with vivid images and sensations - you can taste the chocolate mice (with almond ears and a licorice tail), feel the bite of the bonfire's heat through the chilling air, see Madame Padva's luxurious velvet gowns. You can feel the magical energy the circus is humming with on your skin. At the same time, the story itself is told sparsely. While every image is illustrated thoroughly, leaving no sense to be questioned, the pieces of the story fall into place slowly, told in scenes that happen sporadically, skipping back and forth between different years and characters. The story unfolds delicately. We don't see inside the characters' minds. However, once the final pages are reached, the loose ends are tied. You may not understand all the mechanics of the book, all the reasons why things occurred the way they did. Some aspects of the story are still shrouded in mystery. However, it was satisfying for me. The mystery was part of the enjoyment.

The characters themselves are also a delight. They are all unique, eccentric, and talented, adding different qualities to the circus. There is no villain (although Prospero is probably the closest thing). The characters are complex with different motivations. They all do good, and they all do wrong. I enjoyed getting to know all of them.

And of course, the circus itself. Several chapters in the story are told in second person, guiding the reader through the circus. I thought this was a very unique and effective device to immerse the reader in the circus. The narrative part of the story vacillates between the past and a more immediate present, but instead of being disjointing, the personal journeys interspersed between chapters gave me the opportunity to experience the circus for myself. It made the story personal to me - I cared about the characters and the circus. I wanted both to survive. I was fully invested. And really, wouldn't it be lovely if we could visit a place like that, a place fully devoted to experiencing beauty in every sense?

This is one of the few books that I read as slowly as possible. I did not want it to end. If I could, I would be a reveur and dress in black and white and red and follow the circus around the world. I would own an Herr Thiessen clock. Reading The Night Circus was one of the most positive and delightful reading experiences I have had in years, and I cannot recommend it enough.

5 stars

Warnings: Brief sensuality, there might be language but I can't remember


  1. I've had my eye on this one, especially as it seems that it's a universal love for the story! Gorgeous cover, and love the idea of a circus, magical realism, fantasy, etc. Looking forward to picking this one up.

  2. Those were my thoughts exactly. It was great! Definitely one of my favorites for the year.

  3. so happy to hear this since I recently purchased the book!.. ohhhh and you are now reading one of MY all time favorites The Thirteenth Tale!! I've read that 3 times so far and love it!

  4. I added this one to my tbr list right after you mentioned it a book club. It sounds sooooo good! I think I might just buy it rather than waiting for it at the library, since most people seem to love it and because it's your 3rd favorite book and all :)

  5. This is just one of those books that I want to hug, it was that much fun to read.

  6. @Natalie - I hope you like it! Looking forward to your review. :)

    @Amanda - Me too! I love this book so much!

    @DesLily - I hope you enjoy it! I am loving the pants off Thirteenth Tale right now. They actually remind me of each other a bit - I am not sure if it is the writing style or just the fact that I am really enjoying them so much.

    @Karen - It is so wonderful. I'm sad that people are starting to say they don't want to read it because of all the hype. I hope you enjoy it! I just returned it to the library so if you do decide to read it from there, you're one up on the list. I am planning on buying myself a copy, though, so I would recommend getting your own. It's a keeper.

    @softdrink - Amen to that.

  7. Oh wow, I will definitely have to make this one a priority read! Not that I have time right now... But... :P A blogger friend actually sent me this as a gift because she loved it to much. :) I do definitely need to read it soon and I'm so glad to hear that you loved it!

  8. @Ashley - What a nice friend! That is awesome! I hope you like it. :)

  9. Love this book...I also read it as slowly as I possibly could.
    What are your two favorite books ahead of this one?
    Do you have your 5-star books listed anywhere?

  10. Celeste - My favorite books are 1) Kartography by Kamila Shamsie and 2) His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. If you want to find my 5 star reviews, click on the "reviews" tab at the top of the page and at the top of that page is a link to reviews by rating. Thanks for stopping by!


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