Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I have been very much looking forward to reading this book ever since I first heard about it. Everything about it appeals to me; the fin de siecle time period, a world where magic is real, the fantastical world of the circus. I even love the cover. Sometimes when you are looking forward to a book so much it can't help but be a disappointment - that was not the case here. I loved it. I had to read it quite quickly because someone else had ordered it from the library, which meant that I read great chunks of it at a time and became completely immersed in the story.

The novel follows the characters of Celia and Marco. Celia is the daughter of Hector Bowen, a man who hides his genuine magical ability under the guise of a stage act. Hector enters into a challenge with a mysterious friend of his. We don't know the nature of this challenge, only that it will be Celia who carries it out. She faces a challenger chosen by the mysterious stranger - Marco. Both children are trained in the magical arts, both unsure of what their task actually is, until eventually they come together at Les Cirque des Reves.

Les Cirque des Reves is a fabulous creation. It arrives without any warning and opens only at night. Customers pay their entrance fee and then can wander at will through the tents which make up the circus. Each tent contains an amazing act or exhibition, and the circus is growing all the time with each new tent containing something even more amazing than the one before.

You step into a bright, open courtyard surrounded by striped tents.
Curving pathways along the perimeter lead away from the courtyard, turning into unseen mysteries dotted with twinkling lights.
There are vendors traversing the crowd around you, selling refreshments and oddities, creations flavored with vanilla and honey, chocolate and cinnamon.
A contortionist in a sparkling black costume twists on a platform nearby, bending her body into impossible shapes.
A juggler tosses globes of black and white and silver high into the air, where they seem to hover before falling again into his hands, his attentive spectators applauding.
All bathed in glowing light.

As the circus travels around more and more people become involved in it. There are all the other acts, there are the people who established the circus (having no idea that it was to be the venue for a magical challenge), and there are the customer of the circus. One of my favourite things in the story was the netowork of fanatical circus goers, the Reveurs, who dress in black and white with a flash of red, and always attend the circus wherever it goes.

Celia and Marco are trapped in their challenge, and they become increasingly trapped as the circus grows bigger. But they are not passive victims, both of them are strong characters and they push against their fate.

All in all I loved this book and am looking forward to whatever Erin Morgenstern writes next.