Review | Friday 23 September 2011
As you close The Night Circus, the whiff of caramel popcorn disappears, the taste of mulled cider abandons your mouth and the black-and-white marvels of Le Cirque des Rêves are torn abruptly away, as reality crashes back. But for a little while you’re there, looking wide-eyed at the sea of tents on yesterday’s empty field, exploring the endless winding pathways, gasping as the contortionist bends in ways no human body should. Finally, you stumble across a tent that reads: ‘Feats of Illustrious Illusion.’ Curious, you enter. Behind you, the door disappears seamlessly into the wall. And you wait for the magic to begin.
So the curtain raises on Le Cirque de Rêves, open only at night and clothed entirely in black and white. It’s the touring stage on which they display their magical prowess and their ever-expanding talents wow all who enter its gates. Marco and Celia are bound to a high-stakes game from which neither may escape until the ultimate victor is revealed. They create a garden made entirely of ice, a carousel whose animals come to life and a maze of clouds. But their game has unwittingly captured others in its grasp and the circus gradually begins to unravel as it draws to its seemingly inevitable conclusion.
Erin Morgenstern is a master of description, who demands complete immersion from her readers. Her writing invokes all the senses, entangling you in the feel, the smell, the taste and the magic of the circus. Her mouth-watering portrayal of Le Cirque des Rêves’ creator Chandresh’s midnight dinners alone will have you racing for the cupboards (knowing full well that you’ll find nothing that remotely compares). The Night Circus is the finest form of escapism; in your mind’s eye you’re still watching performing cats big and small, lighting a candle on the wishing tree, and getting lost in the labyrinth, all illuminated by a bright white bonfire.
Amy Roil blogs at The Book Witch.