As mentioned in my 2019 reading goals post, I am trying to re-read more books this year. To help with this, I have a jar of titles that I am picking from each month, and for January I pulled out The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I originally read this in the autumn of 2012 and gave it a pretty average three stars. Unfortunately, I wasn’t taking notes back then so I don’t have anything to look back on apart from the star rating. Here are my thoughts seven years later.
Two bored old magicians
The Night Circus is a story of fierce competition, set at the Night Circus, between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their ancient instructors. (Basically, two very old, very bored, magicians wished to play a game that pushed boundaries in a large venue with no time limits and poor Celia and Marco became their pawns.)
The plot is super intriguing and nicely paced. There are mysterious elements that create a tense atmosphere that slowly unravels as the book progresses. This works to propel the story forward and keep you interested. Also, the chapters move backward and forward in time which adds to the mysterious elements and keeps the reader on their toes.
“Bits of the body of the clock expand and contract, like pieces of a puzzle. As though the clock is falling apart, slowly and gracefully.”
Erin Morgenstern has a very wonderful, whimsical and lyrical style of writing. She spends vast amounts of time vividly describing a meal, the smell of a circus tent or the type of dress that Celia is wearing. It isn’t tiresome, it actually works brilliantly to create a lively and sensuous atmosphere that is incredibly visceral for the reader.
Interestingly, there are second-person interludes throughout the novel and these add to the world-building and the immersion. They also work to propel the story forward and help with pacing, but mostly it really adds to the idea that the reader has quite literally entered the circus.
Popp and Widge
The characters of The Night Circus are wonderfully written. However, there is a distinct lack of representation except for a few potentially queer characters, but I’m well aware that this book was published in 2012. For me, Widget and Poppet are the stand-out characters. They represent all that the circus is and allow the reader to see the world through the eyes of two wonderfully intelligent children.
On the other hand…
As mentioned before there is a lack of representation in this book but there is also a few outrageously sexist moments that I understand are products of the ‘time’ (1870-1900) but they still rubbed me up the wrong way. I also really didn’t like how the author handled the relationship, or lack thereof, between Marco and Isobel. Young Isobel falls madly in love with a mysterious magician, goes off to join the circus for him and all the whilst he falls in love with someone else and just doesn’t tell her about it! The end of their relationship is handled terribly and made me feel very sad for Imogen.
Random side note: Marco does A LOT of creepy staring in this book.