The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
20 February, 2012
This is one of those books. It’s one where you step in and are lost for days as you explore a rich and strange landscape filled with delightful surprises with every turn of the page. And when you close the book, for whatever reason, you look at the world differently. Everything is slightly more magical, exciting, eccentric. That’s The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It reminded me a little of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norris but without the footnotes.
I try to avoid books that have been overhyped. But I recommended this one to a friend of mine when she was looking for something to read with the caveat that I hadn’t vetted it first hand. And then she came back to me to tell me I had to read it and gave me a copy for my birthday. Sweet.
In The Night Circus, Morgenstern has managed to create an authentic world of magic wrapped delicately in Victoriana. I’m not sure whether what endeared me were the little details which included an eccentrically flamboyant enterpreneur named Christophe Chandresh Lefevre or a Japanese contortionist named Tsukiko. But the strength of this book lies in the details. They are delicate and exquisite and makes me wish I could come upon black and white striped tents in the middle of a field when I least expect it. Much like Hogwarts, the Night Circus is one place I would love to visit. But what underpins this tale is the love story between the two protagonists, Celia and Marco, two magicians who are destined to compete in a game not of their making.
Celia first meets her father, Hector who is more commonly known as Prospero the Magician, after her mother’s suicide. When he sees her inherent magical abilities, he trains her and pledges her to an ongoing game he has with his old friend Alexander, who will also find a competitor. Theirs is a game not just about ability but the difference in the way they see how magic should be treated and used in a world that does not believe in magic. Hector’s magic shows are indeed the real thing disguised as illusions. And in Celia, he has found the perfect pupil. But growing up as a game piece, Celia never feels loved by Prospero and knows only that she makes her father happy by learning well. As they travel around the world, Alexander has also found the perfect pupil in Marco whom he rescues from an orphanage. Alexander decided on the venue and persuades Christophe Chandresh Lefevre to draw up plans for a circus, but one that is unique, and sends Marco to work for him. As they audition their acts, Marco meets Celia who becomes the circus’ illusionist. And as they build more and more brilliant attractions, they do not realise the game is already under way until they fall in love and it is too late.
I really liked the characters Morgenstern has created, especially that of Celia. That’s probably one of the many reasons why I liked this book so much. Celia is quiet and focussed and sure of herself. She’s not some helpless chick waiting to be rescued. But there are many characters in this book, some sweet, some misguided and some cruel, but each one unique.
The writing is rich and loquacious and although I read the last half of the book late into the night, I wanted to savour each word like the morsels of Turkish Delight that so tempted Edmund Pevensie.