7) The Night Circus

By: Erin Morgenstern

Date Finished: 03.18.12

By Erin Morgenstern

This book is, in a word, indulgent.  Indulgent like a taste of your favorite dessert enjoyed in solitude, a moment stolen away from rush of everyday life.  It is a book to be savored, to become lost within.  In several places, the writing itself is indulgent as Morgenstern allows her imagination run rampant.  This book is much like the circus it describes where the audience sits so close to the performance that the mechanisms should be easy to spot.  Instead, the show is effortless and the audience witnesses true magic instead.

The circus (Le Cirque des Rêves) arrives without warning.  Its gates open when the sun goes down and close when it rises, but the night is filled with wonderful impossibilities.  It is a living dream, connecting spectator, performer, and creator in an intricate weave.  The reader is privy to all perspectives as they unfold in a most fascinating pattern.  Far-flung players slowly move towards each other as essential pieces of an exquisite work of art.  The effect is truly amazing.

This book is written in present tense, which I’ve seen only a few times (most notably in The Hunger Games).  Unlike my other present tense experiences, I remained very aware of this pecularity while I was reading.  Granted, I read much of the book on my thirty minute lunch breaks, so the frequent breaks of concentration likely contributed to this.  On the other hand, The Hunger Games is also written in first person and tells a linear story.  The Night Circus covers quite a bit of time and jumps around between characters who are living years apart from one another.  Somehow the events of 1884 are happening simultaneously as events in 1902 (not exactly, but it feels that way) and somehow it’s exactly right.  This technique makes the reading a bit disconcerting at times, but the oddity only adds to the dreaminess of the experience.  The book could not be nearly as effective in the past tense.

I should also mention that this book elicited one rather loud and quite involuntary gasp.  This may seem like a small thing, but consider this: I have seen the unexpected in many stories and have accepted such events without question.  The occasional outburst of distress or recognition may accompany an unforeseen plot development, but I cannot recall a time when I have been genuinely shocked.  This gasp was the purest surprise I have felt in years of reading, working in theatre, and watching television.  That alone is all the praise this book needs.

When you read this book, please do not read it on your lunch break like I did.  Wait until you have a couple days with solid chunks of free time.  You don’t need to read it all at once, but reading it in larger sections will be more satisfying.  As for me, the next time I visit this book I will start at sunset and read through the night.  A book of dreams is meant to be experienced while the rest of the world sleeps.

At the end of the day (or night): Really, really for me.  In every way.  Really.

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