The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (review copy) - In 1886 a mysterious travelling circus becomes an international sensation. Open only at night, constructed entirely in black and white, the Cirque des Rêves delights all who wander its circular paths and warm themselves at its bonfire. There are contortionists, performing cats, carousels and illusionists – all the trappings of an ordinary circus. But this is no conventional spectacle. Some tents contain clouds, some ice. The circus seems almost to cast a spell over its aficionados, who dress in red and call themselves the rêveurs – the dreamers. And who is the sinister man in the grey suit who watches over it all? Behind the scenes a dangerous game is being played by two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who, at the behest of their masters, are forced to test the very limits of the imagination – and of love... Official synopsis from Vintage Books.
Be warned, this is going to be a long review!
When I was contacted about taking part in the blog tour for The Night Circus, I was intrigued, but I didn't know what to expect. The blurb seems perfect now I've read the book, but before I had, I didn't really feel it told me what the story was about. The official synopsis above is better, but I still wasn't sure what kind of story I would be reading. Then I picked it up, and completely fell in love.
Two powerful masters of magic decide to play a game. They each take a child, and teach them in their ways of illusion, manipulation, magic, with the intention of pitting them against each other after years of study to see how will win. The rules of the game are not clear, nor is how one wins, all Celia and Marco know is that they have to out-do some other unknown - each other - and have no choice in the matter.
Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre is a wealthy, powerful, business man, and comes up with an idea for a circus. But not just any circus, not a normal circus with clowns and silliness. A circus that opens only at night, with innumerable tents with fantastic sights to wow and awe the audience, tents where each is better than the last. A circus where dreams are a reality; Le Cirque des Rêves - the circus of dreams. Whether through fate, coincidence, or design, this circus is where Celia and Marco will do battle, where they will try to create spectacles that will out shine those of the other. The circus becomes entwined in all that both Celia and Marco do, it's fate, and that of everyone involved in it, determined only by who wins.
I cannot tell you how much I love this story! It is absolutely incredible; completely magical and so detailed. The story spans decades; we follow the lives of Celia and Marco from when they're children, from when the challenge is put in motion by their masters, through their studying and through the start of the game they don't completely understand. We also get to see the circus form; we see the conception of the idea, where Chandresh is discussing ideas with a number of close friends he feels can contribute to the success of an idea he has had, through opening night when magical things happen. We see the circus achieve global fame, and the rise of the rêveurs, a world-wide group of fans whose love for the circus knows no bounds.
The is a large cast of characters, and Erin Morgenstern writes with such skill that you care about each and every single one of them, even though there are more than I could count. The romance between Celia and Marco is beyond words, but I'll try; it is intense and powerful, and really grabs the reader by the heart. It is achingly beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes. There are sub-plots that follow the lives of various other characters, whose stories are told outside the time of the circus. For example, you could be reading one chapter about the plans for the circus, and the next chapter will jump forward quite a few years and we see young Bailey, a farmer's son, who has just visited the circus for the first time. It sounds like it might get confusing, but it never does. It's a fantastic way of adding to the brilliance of the circus to the reader, making it seem as if it is in existence at all times - the past, the future, it's all now where the circus is concerned. Also, with the sub-plots, we get to see the circus from the outside as well as from the inside. But these aren't just random sub-plots, each sub-plot is integral to the story as a whole, even if you can't see how at the beginning. The reach of the circus, of the story, is wide, and so many lives are effected by it.
Morgenstern is an exceptionally skilled writer. No matter who's point of view we're following at any point of the book, the book is written in third person. Except for when it isn't. Except for those times when Morgenstern writes in second person - no "I" or "he/she/they", but "you". Throughout the novel, Morgenstern brings the reader in by allowing you to visit the circus; she leads you through various tents, shows you different sights, and makes the circus seem real, because you get to "see" it yourself. And the tents are simply magical! Morgenstern has imagination in bucket loads, and she pours it into this novel. I don't want to go into what you'll find in the interiors of the tents, because they are best discovered as you read, but this circus truly is a circus of dreams! You have no idea how much I wish this circus was real; it would be a wonder to behold!
Not only that, but Morgenstern has a incredible way with words! The Night Circus is a delight to the imagination; though only existing in words, the circus is a feast for the senses. Everything is described in so much detail, in such language, you are immersed in wondrous sights, sounds, scents, tastes and textures throughout the novel, making it a luxurious read. The language is so beautiful, it's addictive, with sentences that demand to be read aloud. Each chapter is like the tents of the circus; there's something extraordinary to discover, each word something delicious dipped in sugar. Although the pace of the book can be considered slow moving, to me it was perfect; slow to savour the complete and utter deliciousness of the book! With The Night Circus, Morgenstern paints with words, and she has painted a masterpiece.
This book is completely enchanting. It's like Morgenstern crawled into my head, and from what she discovered, she wrote the book I had been looking for all along, without even knowing I was looking for it. The Night Circus goes above and beyond anything I could ever have wished for in a book. It's not just a story, it's an experience. Quite possible the best book I have ever read, one I have taken into my heart and will treasure my whole life.
Thank you to Vintage Books for sending me a review copy.
Published: 24th May 2012
Publisher: Vintage Books
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Erin Morgenstern's Website