Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review - The Night Circus

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Year of publication: 2011
Publisher: Harvill Secker London
Page extent: 387


Set in the late 1800s and early 1900s, we meet a young girl named Celia Bowen, the daughter of magician Prospero the Enchanter (also known as Hector Bowen), and an orphan named Marco Alisdair, the ward of a mysterious man referred to only as Mr A.H—. The children both display special talents that they don't fully understand, and without their knowledge, Hector and Mr. A.H— , long time rivals, enter them into a contest of skill, with no real start or end date. The contest between the young proteges is a test of illusion, enchantment, and magic, and the children are bound into it with no hope of escape. They are trained relentlessly by their masters, prepared to face off against each other at some vague point in the future.

There are many principal characters, but the introduction of Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre ushers in the beginning of the mysterious and whimsical Le Cirque des Rêves. As Chandresh's assistant, Marco, now an adult, controls every single detail of the mysterious circus that only opens at night, in seemingly unplanned locations around the world. Celia, a striking young woman, is hired as the illusionist for the circus, and with a slew of eccentric secondary characters, the backdrop of the circus is slowly painted in exquisite detail for the audience.

At Le Cirque des Rêves, visitors marvel at the seemingly effortless elaborate tents and sideshows, but Marco and Celia work hard to use their talents to create magical worlds inside the black and white striped tents as they compete against each other in a contest no one else realises exists. Morgenstern creates an astoundingly magical world, with flawless attention to detail as new tents are conjured up, and colourful illusions are performed easily as Celia and Marco become increasingly immersed in their contest. But Hector Bowen and Mr A.H– don't count on Celia and Marco becoming more invested in each other as the contest progresses. As their romance develops, the binds of the contest constrict them more and more as they realise how the contest must end, and the passion with which they create illusions for each other is as enticing as the passion between the two of them on the few occasions they find themselves alone. Their love story is the spectacle around which everything else in the circus exists, though they are the only two people who realise this.

It's not often that an author can create a marvelous world that exists equally in reality and fantasy, but Morgenstern has done exactly that. Her careful construction of every inch of the circus is truly a wonder, and readers will sink into the world both inside and outside the circus gates in a deliciously slow fall. It's an almost dream-like descent into one of the most fantastical circuses one could ever read about, but Morgenstern has it exist within a reality that is also completely intriguing, rich with characters, and full of mystery that the jumps between circus life and civilian life with ease. Colours, textures, sounds and scents jump off the page, and when the book is closed, it's hard not to believe that the world you've been reading about is not the same world you're living in.

The Night Circus is such a richly created novel that this review really doesn't do it justice. To enjoy it, one really needs to set aside hours to delve deeply into the world of the circus and marvel along with the patrons at the amazingly detailed nocturnal whimsy that will dazzle, charm, and delight. This book is one not to be missed - I can't recommend it enough.

In a word: delicious

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Keren said...

Sounds like a fantastic read! I may or may not have ordered it by the end of the day ... :)

Hannah said...

Oh, I remember wanting to read this when it first came out! Back on the "want" list now...

Julia @ Boredom Abounds said...

Oh you guys must read it - it's just gorgeous! I'd love to know what you think of it!