Wednesday, January 25, 2012

CBR IV Review #3 - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

“You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Reves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus.
You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.” 

I've had this book recommended to me so many times now, I've lost count.  And every last one of them was right.  
The Night Circus is the story of two battling magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been bound to each other and to their battle since they were children by their instructors, a Mr. A H--- and Hector Bowen, Celia's father.  The two create a magnificent, unique circus, Le Cirque des Rêves as their playing field.  The book tells not only of their battle, but of the effects this competition has on those caught in the middle, both as participants and spectators.  To elaborate too thoroughly on the plot (as many of the descriptions I've read do) is a disservice - it's so much better to experience it.

Part of what finally drew me to selecting this title versus the dozens of others I have on my ever growing To Read list was a point of inspiration for the author.  Morgenstern thanks a company called Punchdrunk, who put together a show she saw in Boston.  The show she's referring to, Sleep No More, is currently playing in New York, and I've seen it twice with plans to go again ad infinitum till it closes.  It's a completely unique, immersive theatrical experience, much like the circus in this book.  It's very easy to see the parallels between the two works as you read.  Friedrick Thiessen, a character of the book who is both a clockmaker and a pioneering fan of the circus, helps connect the two threads the best.  In the book, there is a community of devoted followers of the circus called reveurs; Sleep No More has the same, but we have no name as a group.  Still, in both cases, people follow the show, gathering together to discuss it whether they know each other or not, bound by a mutual love for a show that is never the same and that you can never truly see all of.  This really helped me to connect to the book in a deeper way - I know exactly what it feels like to be somewhere like Le Cirque des Rêves and that makes the atmosphere so much more electric for me as a reader.

Not that this suggests that you can't enjoy the book without having this connection - it's simply a well written piece of fantasy with some really brilliant characters and an interesting narrative.  Celia and Marco make excellent protagonists, and their story is one that I think develops very nicely over the course of the book.  All of the characters feel very real and they are all relevant, which I think is important, as it reflects part of the goal of the competition - dealing with outside elements and the consequences your decisions have on them.  And the ending was absolutely beautiful and completely satisfying - there were a lot of ways for this to end, and it reaches the right blend of them all.

Definitely check out this book.  You'll lose yourself to the circus and wish you didn't have to come back.

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