“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisement in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”
The Night Circus is the captivating debut novel from American author Erin Morgenstern. It is a story about magic. Real magic, not the illusions, tricks and sleight of hand currently in vogue on primetime TV. And certainly not magic in the Harry Potter sense of wizards and muggles. No, The Night Circus is held together by an extraordinary kind of magic that even ordinary folk can be trained to perform.
The principal action occurs towards the close of the 19th century. The magician’s daughter (Celia) and the sorcerer’s apprentice (Marco) find themselves pitted against each other in a game of skill and endurance. The challenge takes place within the confines of Le Cirque des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams), a fantastical travelling circus that only opens from dusk to dawn. Celia and Marco are unwitting pawns in their master’s game, unaware of the rules of engagement or even the identity of their opponent. However, when they fall in love, events at the circus start to unravel…
The beating heart of the story is the relationship between Celia, Marco and the circus. There is also a host of supporting characters: the masterminds behind the inception of the circus, the circus performers themselves and the rêveurs—a collective of red-scarf wearing patrons who are so entranced by Le Cirque des Rêves that they follow it from town to town.
If I have one quibble about The Night Circus, it is that Le Cirque des Rêves is so finely drawn by the author that it has a tendency to overshadow the characters. I fear that I did not care about the fate of Celia and Marco quite as much as I should have done. That said, the circus is a visual feast that transports the reader to a remarkable monochromatic world. As I read the book, I couldn’t help but think what an amazing movie it might make. If ever a film adaptation called out for the wizardry of 3D technology, The Night Circus has to be it. I can just imagine ‘walking’ through concentric circles of black and white tents, visiting the ice garden or the cloud maze, making a wish upon the wishing tree. Perhaps the scent of caramel and woodsmoke could be wafted around the auditorium to fully immerse moviegoers in the sensory experience of Le Cirque des Rêves.
Not surprising, then, that the movie rights for The Night Circus have already been snapped up and a script is in development. I do hope that Tim Burton is approached to direct. The circus simply has his name written all over it.
The Night Circus is an utterly entrancing place. If you’re a hopeless dreamer who longs to run away to a circus like no other, please pick up a copy of this book. I’m pretty sure that you won’t be disappointed.
The Night Circus is published in the UK by Harvill Secker. More information about the book and the author can be found at:
If you enjoy The Night Circus, there is every chance that you will also like The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender and A Place Called Here by Cecelia Ahern.