Book Review – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My second book review for this new blog is another debut novel that I have just read after it was recommended to me. First published in 2011 and longlisted for the Orange Prize For Fiction in 2012, The Night Circus is a fantastic novel, which mixes fantasy and reality to create an intriguing and imaginative novel that, like the magic in the story itself, puts a spell over its readers, making you believe you are really there!

It’s hard to talk about the plot without giving too much away. In summary, the novel tells the story of “Le Cirque de Rệves” (The Circus of Dreams) through the lives and experiences of the individuals, who create it, live and work in it or visit it.

The mysterious circus of black and white tents appears at locations throughout the world as if by magic and without warning. However this is no ordinary circus, as this one is only open at night – opening at nightfall and closing at dawn. It could remain in one place a month or a day. Nothing is certain and not everything is quite as it seems, even to those who are a part of the world of the circus.

Within this world, the story centres around two individuals who from childhood have been linked to each other through an age old rivalry between two illusionists, who have lived their lives testing which of them has the superior skills. To demonstrate this, a challenge is set, requiring an apprentice of each man to take part in a game that neither really understands and through this game their masters will decide on a winner. However this latest challenge involves another element – what happens when the two apprentices fall in love?

As a reader, you can’t fail to be enchanted by the magical world created by Erin Morgenstern in this novel, which I think is a remarkable debut. It reminded me of how I felt as a child reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Then I wanted to the factory to be real. Now, as an adult, I wished the Night Circus could be a reality. The atmosphere of the world comes to life so vividly that you could think you were dreaming, with all the wondrous smells, tastes and sounds staying with you. All this is down to the wonderful writing, which not only creates this world but also the variety of characters, who are so central to the story, whether they are the performers at the circus, those who help build it (I especially loved the clockmaker and would love one of his clocks to be possible!) or the group of people, known as reveurs, who make it part of their lives to follow the circus wherever it goes, identifying each other through the clothes they wear on their visits to the circus (black and white only with a dash of red).

A lot of novels these days remind me of something I have read before, whether it be the plot or a character. The Night Circus however was something new and imaginative and is the type of novel I’d love to write one day. It is definitely a novel I would recommend to anyone. The only downside is that the circus still isn’t real when you finish it!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is available from all the usual book retailers.

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