Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Night Circus

The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern
London, Harvill Secker, 2011, 387p

I was so engrossed in this world that I didn't want the novel to end. I felt like I was part of something brilliant and magical. The circus haunted me through my days; I could not escape the desire to pick it up and continue on it's journey.

The Night Circus is a celebration of magic, friendship and love. Marco and Celia are bound together by a competition between two old friends. Both are powerful young illusionists, and neither are sure of the rules of the game, but one must be declared the victor. Against the wishes of their masters, they fall in love, and must find a way to escape the world that they have created. 

It is the intricate details that I love most about this story - the settings, the supporting cast, the magic. Despite being a subject of fantasy and dreams, the Night Circus seems so real, coming to life like one of the characters. It travels, it creates, and it breathes. With the use of the second person narrative, you can picture yourself there, amongst the black and white tents, following the pathways through this strange and invigorating environment. Even the physical book is designed to reflect the symbolism within the story - a heavy hardback with black edges and a red ribbon to mark your page. 

It would have been so easy for Morgenstern to let the love story guide the journey of this story, but I found the lives of the other characters to be far more fascinating and significant. Of course, Marco and Celia are vibrant, passionate characters (Celia, in particular, I adore - she is no damsel in distress, but a brave, noble young woman), but the story is carried by others. There is Bailey, a young boy outside the circus, who is captivated when he sees it appear one morning across the field. Poppet and Widget are twins, born on the opening night, who grow up within the maze of tents, seeing and hearing everything - past, present and future. And Friedrick Thiessen, a German clock maker who follows the circus wherever it goes: watching, admiring, recording it's every detail.

At it's core, this is a story about stories. Many of the characters are avid readers, hoarding books like gold dust. Many are also story-tellers, from Thiessen's writing about the circus, to Widget's ability to tell stories aloud. It is said, towards the end of the novel, that story-telling is a sort of magic:
"It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict."

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