The Night Circus
I’m not sure how to even begin to describe how much I enjoyed this story. It’s like reading a dream, but the kind of dream where you know it’s real life and everything that’s happening has truly happened in the real world, which only serves to make the dream either that much more terrifying or heartrending or fulfilling. Despite the fact that the only colors in the Cirque des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams) are black, grey, white, and silver, the circus still stands up vividly in my imagination. The black and white striped tents standing tall behind the swirling cast iron fence and the dreamer’s clock. It’s not just the circus that grips the imagination, the characters are written with such grace that it’s not just an investment in them the author elicits, it’s a complete and utter buy in. This story is magical in a very real way. Even if there’s no Cirque des Rêves in the real world, this story is your ticket into it and all you have to do is sit down with this book to go there, which is a magic that’s rare to find in our world.
In some ways, it would detract from your enjoyment of the story for me to summarize it here. In other ways, I know that there’s no way to summarize the magic or circus tents or caramel apples. With that in mind, I will defer the plot summary.
I think, perhaps my favorite part of this book is that it is a full sensory experience. Whenever we follow a character into the cirque, Morgenstern allows us to experience it vicariously through them. From the looming tents to the caramel scents floating through the air, to the bright warm lights playing across their skin, every sense is played with in the cirque. The hot mulled cider that warmed me just reading about it combined with the sounds of the beads in the fortune teller’s tent. This book is practically a study in how to make the reader actually feel like they are experiencing the story. Morgenstern does it flawlessly.
But it’s not just the setting that’s lyrical. The actual story, itself, is as rich as chocolate ganache. The way Morgenstern follows her characters, allowing them to grow, adding new characters in at exactly the right moment, it’s the perfection most people only dream of attaining in a lifetime and this is her debut novel. This story feels like an indulgence, but one that is absolutely necessary. It’s chocolate and a glass of wine at the end of a bad day or a cup of tea, a soft blanket, and a book on a cold rainy day. It’s a warm bath in the winter or a crystal cool pool during the hottest part of the summer. This book can be easily classified with the things that make life worth living. (I realize that I’m rambling, but it’s just so good.)
In the end, the story is enchantingly magical. It’s the kind of dream that you don’t want to wake up from. There are meta moments in the story, when it acknowledges that the cirque is loved fanatically by a group of people who call themselves rêveurs…dreamers. Throughout the story I kept remembering a quote from Amelie that seemed particularly appropriate and it’s what I’m going to leave you with.
”Les temps sont durs pour les rêveurs.” (The times are hard for dreamers.)
5 ink bottles and whatever dreams you’ve had in the last week.