Give me magic, gadgets, monsters, zombies, everything that seems impossible, and throw in some tough chicks with swords. That's the stuff.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Running Away to the Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I received an Advance Readers Copy of this book to review for Amazon Vine [link goes to Vine Review]. (Actually, I read it back in June, but since the official release date is September 13, I held onto it for awhile before putting it on the blog.)

The bulk of this book focuses on a mysterious circus, Le Cirque des Reves, that appears suddenly, without fanfare, is open only at night, and is filled with all things thought impossible. It instantly brought to mind my first visit to Cirque du Soleil - before they were a Vegas fixture. Seemingly overnight, a tent appeared in the mall parking lot. Curious, my parents and I walked up to the booth, and bought tickets (they were not yet so well known that tickets had to be purchased in advance). We had no expectations, no idea what awaited us.

It was magic - the music, the language, the costumes, the performers - seeing people use their bodies to create artistic tableaus, daring feats, it was as though these artists had created their own world under the big top. It was the first time I'd ever dreamed of running away to join the circus. That sense of wonder came back to me time and again as I read The Night Circus.

Putting down my thoughts on this book has been more of a challenge than I usually face. It has a cast of finely drawn characters, an epic, magical game that spans decades, love, loss, and yet it's still more than that. It follows the creation of a grand artistic achievement, how that creation can take on a life of its own apart from the initial creators, and how the audience owns a piece of it and makes its own modifications. Instead of a more simple story - boy and girl meet, battles, the fairytale ending, this felt more like an experience. You're an outsider glimpsing how all of the layers fit together, watching the grand show, becoming a part of it.

The narrative jumps around in time, and I found myself going back to check the dates on the chapters often in the beginning, but as the different threads began to merge on the timeline, the tension ratcheted, and I couldn't stop reading for anything.

I highly recommend this book. I'm trying to get the readers I know who dislike the paranormal to read it, as I think they will get a lot from it. It was just all around literary magic.

If you're in the mood for more reading under the big top (and you've already read/seen Water for Elephants), then I suggest also:

Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti by Genevieve Valentine - I'm currently reading this and it is so wonderfully strange and steampunk-y and I'm trying to fit the puzzle pieces together. Love it. Out now.

Circus Glacticus by Deva Fagan - An orphan, a circus, aliens? Looks like a Middle school/YA adventure. Can't wait! Out November 15, 2011


  1. I had a similar experience with Cirque du Soleil when I was 13. I just pre-ordered this book on my Kindle. I can't wait. Thanks for the review.

  2. @ElizaB - Hope you love it! Thanks!