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.

13 Responses to “The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern”

  1. winstonsdad Says:

    This seems to be a book people love ,I was a bit put of by the hype myself but sure I ll buy it second hand at some point just to see like I did the Susannah Clarke book ,all the best stu

  2. savidgereads Says:

    I wanted to be really lost in this book and have the same feelings that you did Sakura. However something didn’t click, it should have with the magic and victoriana etc which I like so much – but I think it was the hypes fault. I expected more and didn’t get it.

    I was worried the same thing would happen with ‘The Snow Child’ by Eowyn Ivey (which I am going to be recommending to pretty much everyone) fortunately not!

  3. Mystica Says:

    You make it sound delicious!

  4. deslily Says:

    I began this book but it didn’t pull me in so I set it aside determined to try again but haven’t gotten back to it..good to hear you liked it so much!

  5. Gnoe Says:

    I’m not sure whether to be happy or sad that you liked this book so much… Happy because it confirms I should read it, sad because I’d hoped to be able to cross off some of those titles on my ever growing wish list… LOL

    Well, it’s good to know there’s a pageturner out there I can pick up in a time of need. ;P

  6. Joanne Says:

    I started this book last night – I think I’m going to love it.

  7. sakura Says:

    Hello and thank you for commenting, everyone!

    I’ve had a lot of mixed comments about this book but I reckon it’s mainly to do with the hype. If there had been a little less hype, maybe more of you may have liked it (although I think a lot of people did) but then if there wasn’t enough hype, most of us may not have picked it up… Hmm. But it’s rather refreshing to see so many different opinions!

  8. I finished it last night and wish I was still under its enchantment. I resisted it at first because of the hype but I also knew it was a book I was going to love … sometimes you can just tell when it’s going to be one of “those” books.

    The details were what made this book so enjoyable for me too and I loved the eccentricities of the characters (I do wish there had been more detail in the end – what happened to Lainie and Ethan?)

    I highly recommend Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter. Ostensibly they are similar in theme, richness of language and wealth of perfectly-drawn characters but that’s where the similarities end (I was reminded often of Carter while reading The Night Circus especially with Morgenstern’s love for snow descriptions).

    • sakura Says:

      I’m so glad you liked it! I’ll be sure to check out Nights at the Circus too. There’s just something so magical and a little frightening about circuses, isnt’ there?

  9. Nymeth Says:

    You had to compare it to JS&MN, didn’t you? 😛 I’ve been waiting for the buzz to die down a little bit (not because I have anything against popular books but for the sake of my own expectations), but I bet it will delight me when I finally get to it.

  10. Iris Says:

    I have read quite a few less than positive reviews of this lately and so my excitement had died down a little, but now you compare it to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and I am very curious again 🙂 Luckily I have this on my shelves. I will be reading it sometime this year, I hope.

  11. Mady Says:

    This had a slow start for me, but once the circus was up and running I was enchanted and could hardly stop reading (like the characters couldn’t avoid going to the circus!)!
    I loved all the details included on this story and some of them I could only understand by discussing and searching online (for instance, I was not aware at the similarities of this with “The Tempest” by Shakespeare until I tried to understand why would Prospero comment to his daughter that she should have been named Miranda…).
    Glad you liked it as well. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is already on my TBR, but the size frightens me a bit!

  12. sakura Says:

    Nymeth & Iris: I knew comparing it with JS&MR would do the trick!;P Yeah, hype often kills my enthusiasm so I try not to read too many reviews until I’ve finished the book.

    Mady: Prospero is such an evocative name, isn’t it? Rather clever, I think.

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