“Is this a kissing book?” Yes, yes it is. Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus is a story of love and magic. The book follows Marco Alisdair and Celia Bowen as they are pitted against each other, by their guardians, in a mysterious magical challenge. The venue is Le Cirque Des Reves; the rules are anyone’s guess.
Morgenstern’s debut novel is absorbing, fast-paced and is itself magical. She creates a rich and immersive world, realised down to the last detail. The atmosphere of the circus is almost palpable, evoking sights, sounds, smells and tastes. The circus sucks you in, both through the sections of the narrative which directly address the reader and through Morgenstern’s absolute certainty of the world which she has created it. She gives the impression not of an author creating a world but rather of a tour guide, leading you through this fantastical “circus of dreams”.
The plot is, somewhat inevitably, a love story, but with enough obstacle and sensibility that it never becomes bogged down in sentimentality. Despite the prevalence of magic throughout the novel, it stands with one foot in our world and the characters and emotions explored are very relatable and engaging. Morgenstern’s tendency to move back and forth through space and time was potentially a pitfall. Novels that allow you to build an attachment to a character before whisking you elsewhere have a tendency to be jarring, but she displays anexcellent sense of timing and choses her moments carefully.
The result is a very filmic novel. With descriptions that are full without being overlong and the well timed shifts from scene to scene, the book has an extremely visual feel. The short chapters can fill any quiet moments you have during the day in bitesize chunks.
One criticism of the novel is that the denoument feels rushed. While the seeds of the conclusion are laid out throughout the story, the actual execution of the finale seems too abrupt. While the final few pages make for a nice conclusion, one can’t help but feel that the story’s resolution could have been a bit meatier.
Overall The Night Circus is a brilliantly crafted story, full of atmosphere and enchantment. It’s the perfect book in the run up to Hallowe’en for getting you into the spirit (yuk yuk) of the season. Fill your shortening days with it and keep your eyes peeled around your town for the flutter of black and white. The circus arives without warning…