The first book that I read for my 13 in ’13 Reading Challenge was The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. Based on the comments I’ve gotten leading up to this post, I know that a lot of you have already read The Night Circus. For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure, here’s my quick, spoiler free, synopsis:
Two young magicians, Celia and Marco, have been trained since childhood to participate in a “game”. They don’t know the rules, or their opponents, or just how much it will cost them to win. Their game unfolds at night, at the circus, across years and continents … and it touches the lives of more people than they could possibly imagine.
I hadn’t heard of it before my mom recommended it to me over the holidays, so I started reading with absolutely no expectations. I was hoping to find something that would distract me from my real life for a while, and would take me somewhere that I hadn’t been to before.
Well, did Erin ever deliver! Her words grabbed my attention from the very first page and held on tight for the remaining 399:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local papers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
When I’ve reviewed books here in the past, I’ve created quick and breezy little snapshots of my experience by focusing on a single element of the story, like favourite characters or quotable quotes. I found that I couldn’t do that with The Night Circus. My experience reading this book was too … big.
Perhaps it’s because I was working my way through some personal things and craving escape when I started reading, but I haven’t found a book to be this completely transporting and immersive in a long time. I felt like I was living in the Circus from the first page to the last. Morgenstern provides such specific, vivid details for you to latch onto while you’re reading that the magic in the story never feels overblown. It’s magnificent and amazing, sure, but each illusion feels like it’s grown organically out of the hearts and minds of the two main characters, so it never feels grandiose or over the top.
Morgenstern isn’t showing off, here; she’s showing you her characters’ souls. The
scale of the tricks that Celia and Marco perform may be massive, but because each of their magical feats are grounded in the few tiny, precious moments the magicians spend together, they feel intimate, and true.
It wasn’t until I was about a third of the way through the book that it hit me: The Night Circus is a love story.
And it was exactly what I needed.
My annual re-read of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows aside, the fantasy genre is a bit of a departure for me. What about you? Have you read The Night Circus? What did you think of it? Are you a fan of stories with magical elements?
As promised, next Tuesday we’ll be discussing book #2 in my Challenge: The Rules of Civility. In the meantime, Wordful Wednesday is tomorrow! I hope to see you there!