The Night Circus

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.

Well, we live in Coronaworld now. I hope you are safe and well and have plenty of books to make it through your self-isolation/social distancing.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is another one of those hugely hyped reads it took me forever to get around to. But, faced with a long car journey (I was not behind the wheel, don’t worry) before which I spotted in it a second hand book shop, I decided it was time to take the plunge.

Ooof.

The Night Circus is really everything you want from a work of fiction. Magical, romantic and oh-so-atmospheric, I was transported into the world of Le Cirque des Rêves – and in no particular hurry to leave it. Fortune tellers, acrobats, conjurors, contortionists, dancers and illusionists populate the circus, which travels all around the world, suddenly appearing and captivating a place for a few days before vanishing once again.

It’s a beefy book – coming in at just under 500 pages – but the non-linear narrative serves to drive the plot ever-forward. It’s like Erin is handing you a selection of puzzle pieces you gradually fit together in a series of satisfying ‘ah ha!’ moments as present and past suddenly, finally come together.

The story is just so vast – it centres around Marco and Celia’s competition, yes, but quickly reaches outwards into the lives of the other circus performers, patrons, associates and conspirators. We jump between various time lines, learning of deaths before they have happened (though that makes them no less painful once we do witness them in real time), see characters end up in despair without yet understanding how they got there and learn of a huge and bleak something bearing down on the magical place but without yet understanding how the bleak thing started – or how the performers of Le Cirque des Rêves might stop it.

Erin Morgenstern’s writing makes me think of Laini Taylor, so rich and detailed are her descriptions. I felt I was there, wandering the looping pathways around the ever-burning bonfire at the centre of the circus, peeking inside the performance tents, each more magical than the next. Even in the structure of Erin’s writing – down to her individual word choices – there is magic.

I’ve never really been into the idea of running away to the circus before, but since I read this it’s all I want to do.

The Night Circus is one of those incredibly difficult books to review because the joy of it, I think, is in the not knowing. All I can say is that I recommend going into this much hyped novel as blind as you can – and letting it sweep you away. There’s a pandemic happening. If there’s anything we need right now it’s escapism, and it doesn’t come more escapist than this epic feat of imagination.

Author: Lydia Tewkesbury

27. Loves a good story.

17 thoughts on “The Night Circus”

  1. Awe, I am so glad you enjoyed it even with all the hype surrounding it!! I read it back in the day and was immediately enchanted. I always sort of understood the people that couldn’t get into the writing, but to me it was just pure magic. I walked on a cloud or in some sort of misty dreamstate for days after. (But then, I always wanted to run away with the circus from a young age on haha)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m glad you enjoyed reading this book. I loved it and have read it two times 😂 I haven’t read Liani Taylor yet but I hope to this year because I love the way this book makes me feel about the circus. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can definitely see myself re-reading it too. I need to get to her new book too – I have plenty time now I’m quarantined so I’m sure I will.

      Yes I think if you loved this one there’s a good chance you’d be into Laini Taylor too

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic review, Lydia! I loved this one just as much when I got around to reading it too. It was mesmerizing! The imagery was so beautiful, the romance was well-dosed, and that ending made things even more impressive! I have been, however, hesitant about her latest book after so many years. I hear mixed thoughts on it but I’m still not sure if I should give it a go someday or nah. Thanks for sharing! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Definitely! I loved the romance – even though it was at the centre of the story it didn’t feel like it dominated the narrative at all.

      I think I will probably get around to The Starless Sea while on lockdown. It’s on my quarantine reading list!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review, Lydia! This is one that has been on my TBR for the longest time but I haven’t gotten around to reading it. It sounds magical and wonderful, though the comparison to Laini Taylor has me a little wary, because despite enjoying Laini’s books, I always think her writing is too flowery for my taste. 😭

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!

      Hmm that’s interesting about Laini. I guess I would probably describe her prose as on the flowery side too, but it’s such an immersive story that it all fits together really perfect. Because of how all the separate parts of the story come together in the end everything about how it’s written feels very purposeful and necessary, if that makes sense.

      Like

  5. Pingback: The Starless Sea

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