Book: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Summary: We watch the magical development of two destined competitors, set against the growth of a unique and dreamlike circus.
“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…”
-The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern
This book makes me so mad. I adore it. The Night Circus is one of my very favorite books in the world, one of the most enchanting books I’ve had the privilege of reading. Beautiful, spellbinding, exquisite in every way. It paints the most vivid pictures in your mind, until you feel that you can almost see the circus in the story, and you desperately wish it was real. But the amount of unsolved mysteries drives me crazy! This is a good thing, and totally appropriate to the story and I truly admire the author, but why, why, why do I have to go through my entire life not knowing Isobel’s real name?! Actually, there are at least three characters that hide their names, it beautiful and torturous.
We follow Celia and Marco, lifelong competitors in a hidden competition, as they join in the creation of a very unique circus with their magical manipulations. The plot twists and turns as the story is told across time, introducing subplots, jumping around, past-future-present-past, until suddenly, all the individual stories have woven together and become whole. The story is beautiful, but the characters make it. Something with such an odd plot structure wouldn’t work unless I was invested in the characters enough to keep track of them all across time and space. We see multiple generations grow up in and around the circus the book is named for, see friends form, lovers find one another, and hearts break.
The way the book is written, it is very hard to pinpoint a protagonist, but if I were truly pressed to choose a main character I would say Celia Bowen. She is an interesting and complex character. We meet her when she is quite a young child, showing up backstage at the theatre her father has performed in, a man who did not even know she existed and was not all too pleased to see her. He was not even mildly interested in his daughter until he found that she shared his innate talent for magic, or “Manipulations”, as they call it, a sophisticated, mysterious sort of word. Celia’s power is not at all controlled or reserved. She has a temper, her magic is chaotic, which will make her the polar opposite of her future competitor. But, she is very talented, and goes through a lot of cruel training, including having her father literally cut her fingertips open so that she is forced to learn to heal living things. I never said he was actually going to be a good parent… Celia proves to be a very determined, witty, strong, and intelligent woman. The way the plot is structured introduces her as very young, and ends with her quite old, though not how you would imagine. We don’t always get this kind of character development in one book, and I think it is very well done, she changes, grows more serious, falls in love, but the spark of who Celia is does not fade.
I might argue, though, that the circus itself is the central character of the story. It is ever changing, a living work of art. I won’t say too much about the circus itself, but it touches the lives of everyone in the book, it effects people deeply, some people wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for the circus, or, as it is called in the story, “Les Cirque Des Reves”. Even the reader is personally affected. We are put into the story, turned into a character in the Second Person Point of View sections set before each chapter. This book is a captivating blend of magic, theatre, and love. Read it at night, when the world is dark and impossible things are much more possible…