Intoxicating Enchantment – “The Night Circus”

This year, right before Christmas, I bought a book from The Last Word (a used bookstore here in the University area of Charlotte). I had heard of the book before, although I couldn’t remember what I had heard about it. Perhaps, someone had just mentioned the title in passing. My first thought was to give it to my mother for Christmas, but after reading the book jacket, the more I looked at it, the more I wanted to keep it for myself. Luckily, I found another book for my mom (again at The Last Word) a week or so after, right in time for Christmas. I would get to read my book, which was wrapped in an elegant cover of white, black, and red and bearing the title – The Night Circus.

Apparently, I am a bit behind. The Night Circus, written by Erin Morgenstern, was published in 2011 by Doubleday. But finally, a couple weeks ago, I was able to start reading. At first, I was a bit put off by the broken chronology. Time jumped back and forth between two plots that I knew would connect eventually. I just wasn’t sure when. At this point in my life, any time a book jumps back and forth in time, I am skeptical if the tactic is warranted. Too many times, I have seen it used simply because the author could and thought it was cool. But the longer I read, the less the jumps bothered me, and ultimately, I discovered that it was indeed used for a very specific purpose and, thus, quite warranted.

The Night Circus Cover
“The Night Circus” – my version’s cover

The Night Circus is absolutely mesmerizing and enchanting. Rather like moving through a dream, the story takes readers to places they always wanted to go but could never quite find. The magic here is in the details – chocolate mice, an ice garden, a wishing tree with candles, and a room of folded paper animals that move. Why would I ever want to leave such a place? I don’t, and while the ending of the novel is about as perfect as I could hope for, I really didn’t want it to end.

Morgenstern’s play with black and white mirror the two magicians who pit Celia and Marco against each other in a deadly game. The colors of the circus, which is the venue for Hector Bowen and A. H—-’s game, are black and white. Morgenstern’s treatment of the colors is not conventional, as she does not subscribe good and evil to them. But rather, just as the magicians controlling the game, the colors push against each other. Conversely, a blend of black and white is what saves the circus. Bailey’s suit is grey – neither black nor white. So if a “good” could be identified, grey would be it.

Near the beginning of the novel, Morgenstern describes the circus as many tents, arranged in circles, on circular paths. The circle of the circus contains the circles of other tents. The apparent disjointed nature of the plot, especially in regard to time, mimics the structure of Morgenstern’s circus. There is, of course, the primary plot with Celia and Marco. Nestled within is the secondary plot with Poppet, Bailey, and Widget, Herr Theissen’s news articles create yet another bare bones plots, and finally, there is a five part plot (reminiscent of a five act play) that follows a character who is simply “you”. The novel both begins and ends with the sentence, “The circus comes without warning.”

In truth, I feel I have not done this book anywhere near enough justice by what I have told you. That said, I do not want to ruin the countless surprises and magic contained in these 387 pages. Tantalizing, haunting, enthralling, and spellbinding, The Night Circus fascinated and entertained me in ways I have not been since I was quite young. For a breathtaking escape from reality, this book is your best ticket.

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