The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is one of the most beautiful stories I’ve read in a very long time. It encompasses everything I could dream up about the glamour, grit, romance and magic surrounding a circus. I’ve always been a bit of a romantic about circuses. I’ve watched documentaries about how hard it is and the dangers, and hardships of living in the circus and I get all that, but I’ll never not think a circus is the most beautiful and awesome thing ever. Because even though there are plenty of things to put in the con section of the pro/con list, part of the pro list is that these people are individually talented artists coming together to create something beautiful. When a circus is pulled off it’s magic and The Night Circus will always be what I point to when someone wants a truly magical story about art, love, and making the two coexist.
The Night Circus is about two magicians that are pitted against each other in a competition, in which the stakes are unknown but certainly high, by their mentors. Part of what I loved about this story is that it explores such a wide variety of character types. Two of the most thought provoking, for me, were the mentors. Prospero, who is teacher and father to Celia, and Alexander, who is teacher and father figure to Marco. While I was becoming more and more emotionally attached to the circus and the talented and complex people that ran it and loved it, I couldn’t help but notice and resent the mentors complete disregard for how their actions affected the people that surrounded them. They had delved so far into their own passions and work that they forgot the world that they were manipulating would not exist in a way that was beneficial to them without the connection made by truly caring for another person. Their aloofness, while theatrically impressive, ultimately made them appear pathetic and unkind. Reading about them was an interesting insight into why caring is so much better than not.
While the mentors were selfish and aloof enough to make me wish I could dive into the pages and give them a good talking to (I fell asleep the other night composing a scathing lecture about using and abusing people), there was enough good and hope in the story to make it a book with heart. There were several story lines that all eventually merged together and in each one there was someone with dreams and hopes that were genuine and good and I wanted more than anything for these characters to get what they wanted. It was a page turner, not always because there was intense action (although there certainly was sometimes) but because so much time was put in to giving each character life and perspective that it felt like I was reading about friends and I wanted to know what happened to them.
The circus itself became a character in the story and I cared just as much about what happened to the circus as the characters did. The nature of the magic competition Celia and Marco are participating in is such that the circus is always changing, growing, and becoming more mysterious. While reading I was half happy that this was a place someone thought up and half sad that it wasn’t a place I could actually go and experience.
The writing was vivid, magic, and anytime I’m in the mood for a little mystery, love, and circus I’ll head back to The Night Circus…I recommend that you do too.