Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Summer Read: The Night Circus

I just finished reading "The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern.  Mysteries and fantasy are two of my favorite genres, making it easy for this story to draw me in.

Celia is raised by her father, Prospero the Enchanter.  He is a magician.  Not any magician who deceives an audience with sleight of hand tricks.  He truly manipulates his physical surroundings, and his daughter has the same natural ability.  He trains her to sharpen these skills.  Prospero and his mysterious acquaintance, Alexander, commit Celia and Alexander's own student to a duel.  Alexander chooses a child named Marco from an orphanage to compete with Prospero's daughter.  Alexander uses his own, very different style of teaching.  His methods incorporate the use of symbols, glyphs, and imitative magic for his student. 

As they reach adulthood, Celia and Marco meet for the first time when both begin working at Le Cirque des Rêves, the Circus of Dreams.  Celia is the illusionist and Marco is the assistant for the proprietor of the circus.  They inevitably fall in love while also learning that Le Cirque des Rêves is the stage for the duel that was established many years ago.  They are given no guidelines or instruction on the rules to this contest, but eventually learn that to be pronounced the winner is to be the last one standing.   

The circus is the true star of the story.  It conjures images of something out of a Tim Burton movie.  The venue is open from dusk until dawn, with a multitude of black and white striped tents filling the area.  Guests wander around captivated, deciding which tent to step inside.  The entertainment is eerie and fantastic:  contortionists, acrobats, a cloud maze, fortune tellers, a living carousel, human statues, an ice garden. Everything is blanketed in black and white.  The author does an astounding job of immersing the reader in the circus.  I could distinctly see it, smell it, and taste it.  Le Cirque des Rêves is a fantastical place that I want to visit.

I was a little disappointed with the ending of the book.  The way in which everything neatly wraps up.  Something darker seems more appropriate.  And perhaps I am a little sad to be back in the real world, away from the magic and mystery of this circus.

Although the story did not play out exactly as I hoped and some of my questions remain unanswered, I definitely recommend reading it.  

After finishing "The Night Circus", I learned that a film is in development.  I am excited to see how the director and cinematographer bring Erin Morgenstern's Circus of Dreams to life.

Two different perspectives on "The Night Circus" from The New York Times and The Washington Independent Review of Books.

CNN's interview with the author

This would make a fantastic theme for a party...possibly a Halloween party.

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