The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was like a dream and a fairy tale for adults (I think it even says that on the back). How someone can take such short, simple sentences and turn them into mental images of such grandeur and mystery and beauty blows my mind. Morgenstern isn’t a lyrical author, but she is a painter with words.
The story is of Marco and Celia, two illusionists. Both are raised from children to understand that their illusions are part of a contest of which they know no rules. The contest eventually involves a magical, surreal circus that captivates the places it visits- and captivates the people that visit. Once Marco and Celia meet and realize that they are opponents, the fate of their lives, the circus and the performers is a jeopardy.
The novel begins in the Victorian era and it has a very steampunk feel to it. I could see some cosplay come out of this. I read it and thought what a great movie or TV series this would be (if Hollywood can meet/exceed reader expectations), but alas, there isn’t yet one despite the screenplay having been sold in 2012. Surprisingly (or maybe I missed it?) there is no mention of the turn of the century despite this story crossing over into the 20th century. I thought there could have been something extraordinary about this change included with the circus, but there was not.
Morgenstern attempts to create two time lines- a current one with a young circus-goer named Bailey and a past one that creates the backstory of the circus and the contest. You realize that the two will intersect towards the end of the book, but I didn’t feel it was that necessary, as it wasn’t until the last 1/3 of the book that I even realized they were on different paths. Bailey’s relationship to the circus doesn’t become exposed until the end, and even then it is not made totally clear. One interesting note- the author RARELY uses the word magic to describe anything in the book. If the word is used, it seems as if it is a dirty word.
Beautiful story about love, relationships, death, illusions and whether our paths in life are truly ordained before we exist.