The Night Circus

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Impossible to characterize! Fantasy but not quite. Mystery/suspense but not quite. Romance but not quite. Allegory? Fairy tale? Steampunk? Metaphysical? All I know is that without much of a plot, and without much character development (which should be faults), and without even a real magical contest (if that isn’t a spoiler), the author has created a magical, riveting world that I won’t soon forget. It jumps around in time and place and from one character to another, which should be confusing, but isn’t. It just adds to the sense of an elaborate illusion, the peeling of an onion to get to the truth of why all of this has been set in motion. And whose story is it in the end? Reading this book is a bit like reading Tarot cards. What do they mean? How do they relate to each other? Is it about the past or the future? It is about symbolism, and archetypes, and how we might escape from the things that bind us. It asks us to ponder the nature of dualism, black and white, good and evil, power and weakness, truth and illusion, the nature of time and of being. Among the recognizable archetypes are the Hero’s Journey, the Wheel of Fortune, Merlin in the tree, Tristan and Isolde, and the Labyrinth. The prose creates vivid images, and I think this will make a splendid movie. My favorite scene: the boat made of books sailing on a sea of ink… I am still there, and I expect to look out the window and see the black and white tents far off in the cornfield.

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.


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