Thank goodness for the Cannonball Book Exchange! I received this wondrous book from the lovely Allibaba77 who not only sent me books, but chocolate as well.
This book has been on my radar for years. I added it to my To-Read list way back in the spring of 2012. I kept looking for it at my library, but the wait list was simply insane. At my library if there is a wait list you can be assured the book is worth your time, and my oh my, is this book worth your time. It is simply a stunning work. Layers of time, narrative, perspectives, magic, love… It’s all here.
The basic plot is rather unassuming, given what the reader will uncover as they go. There are two magicians who have been competing with each other for longer than either care to remember. They do not compete head to head; instead they train young magicians to compete against each other. The young magicians are bound to the competition, and unbeknownst to them, only one can survive. The Night Circus chronicles the competition between Celia and Marco as they create an ever more elaborate and intricate circus, Le Cirque des Rêves.
The finest, most lovely part of this novel is the characters. They are simply a fascinating lot to spend time with and the structure of the book, moving between groups of characters all while building a world where magic is both possible and historic. And the magic is handled so deftly that as a reader I was swept up in it, I was told enough that it all felt plausible, but not so much as to limit my own imagination. This novel is also littered with some of the most sumptuous but simultaneously accessible language I have read in some time. This book is simply stunning.
And with all that said, what really won me over and kept me up at night reading, was the layering of the story. In much of the beginning third of the book the action takes place in linear fashion, bringing the reader through the early training of Celia and Marco and the eventual creation of Le Cirque des Rêves. After these basic plot points are established, Ms. Morgenstern begins to play with both the timeline, moving fluidly from 1902 to 1896 and everywhere in between, and layers in additional characters that initially seem destined to remain on the periphery, become integral to the story of Celia and Marco’s competition, but also their love. But even in the early stages of the book there are interspersed descriptions of the various attributes of the circus itself – its color scheme, its acts – and the observations of one of my favorite characters, Herr Thiessen. By providing access points to the overall narrative from so many different vantage points Ms. Morgenstern created a novel that almost anyone can fall in love with it. Which seems to have worked well as it is a New York Times Bestseller.
If you have not read this book yet I say run to your nearest book peddler and read, read, read!
This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.