The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning.

No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers.  It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

So our story begins – the circus just appearing out of the ether as did my advance review copy of this debut novel, much to my delight.  The UK edition looks stunning with black edged paper and end papers illustrated with a pattern of bowlers and top hats.   This is a feast for the eyes which is perhaps not surprising as the author is an artist but will the inside match the luxurious facade?

This is an odd review for me as, amid all my oohing and ahhing, I was all too aware of how some of my bookish friends would absolutely hate this book and would be cringing from the opening pages.  So, best to get that elephant out of the room before I go any further!  If you don’t like magical realism, if you’re not a fan of meandering narratives, if you prefer action, if you don’t like novels written in the present tense, if you don’t like fantasy then there’s nothing for you here.  However, if, like me, you do like a bit of escapism, you like to slip into another world, if you enjoy visual stimulation, then step right up!

The story is perhaps the least important element of The Night Circus, that role being reserved for the circus itself but yes, there is an underlying narrative, the story of two gifted young illusionists, Celia and Marco, being pitted against each other in a lengthy battle the rules of which are vague. Le Cirque de Reves (the Circus of Dreams) is the battlefield and it soon attracts a faithful following of “reveurs” (dreamers) who follow its progress from town to town, continent to continent by means of a shadowy underground movement.  There is a secondary storyline involving Bailey, a country boy who becomes linked to the circus and will have a key role in future events.  There is a varied cast of weird and wonderful characters, including Celia’s villainous father, Hector, his rival, Alexander, the man in the great suit as well as the supporting cast who keep the circus going.  These are not characters you expect to empathise with, this is a show after all and they are there to entertain you just as the various tents house a myriad of visually stunning scenes, the Ice Garden, the Cloud Maze, the Labyrinth etc.

Some have compared The Night Circus with Audrey Niffenegger and yes, I can see slight similarities given that both authors are visual artists.  Others mention Alice Hoffman and yes, I can see some elements in common but Erin Morgenstern has created a unique world with the Cirque de Reves and for those who are on the right wavelength she has provided a pathway to a singularly enchanting universe, one in which my inner child revelled.  Highly recommended for all “reveurs”/dreamers.

PS  here’s a link to a short YouTube trailer to tantalise you.

PPS I noticed that Jim Dale (of Carry On fame and narrator of Harry Potter audio books in the US) is narrating the audio book version.

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  1. Iris says:

    I dislike a circus setting, something about it.. I don’t know. And yet, this book appeals to me. I keep seeing nothing but great reviews of this one.

  2. FleurFisher says:

    I’m not a lover of present tense or fantasy, but I do like a circus story and this one is definitely calling.

  3. admin says:

    Iris, I know quite a few folk who don’t like circus settings so you’re not alone! Don’t worry there are no clowns. ;-)

    Jane, I felt I had to mention all those caveats (present tense, fantasy etc) but didn’t want to put folk off – I think it’s important to let people know the format etc in case they have a real aversion to it and they might be the wrong reader for this excellent novel. I do hope you enjoy it if you do try it. :-)

  4. The cover had me hooked before reading your review, and after that, this book definitely goes onto the wishlist for I don’t mind any of those caveats. Sounds lovely.

  5. admin says:

    Annabel, I have edited my review to now include the UK cover which I like even more, if that is possible! Hope you like it too! :-)

  6. Jackie says:

    I’ve nearly finished this book and am really enjoying it so far. I knew nothing about this book before a copy dropped through my letter box, but that cover grabbed my attention before I’d read a word. I can see this being the book of the year for a lot of people and am glad to see that you enjoyed it too.

  7. admin says:

    Delighted to hear that you’re enjoying it so far, Jackie. It is close to being a perfect book for me and I can’t help gushing about it although I have a feeling it could be a marmite book…

  8. Andi says:

    I just finished my ARC of this one today, and I’m bursting to write a review. It was just a striking, stunning, luscious narrative. I loved the description, and it drove me crazy how tempered Morgenstern was in revealing the plot. Delicious!

  9. admin says:

    So glad to share the passion with someone who has had the pleasure of reading this! :-)

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