I remember going to the circus several times as a kid. Surprisingly, the most memorable was also probably the most uneventful.
We lived in Philadelphia at the time. I must have been about 11 or 12 years old and I was really excited. We had been to the circus before and I knew what was coming! I was anticipating the elephants, the acrobats, the clowns and the cotton candy.
We left on a cloudy afternoon to search for this circus somewhere outside the city limits. I am pretty sure my mom had no idea where we were going. And it started to rain. Then it started to pour. After what seemed like forever, we finally arrived at the circus and I remember having to tromp through a huge mess of mud to get to the arena. But when we got to the gates, the circus was closed. It had been shut down due to the rain.
I remember being totally devastated. I was angry with my mom for dragging us all the way out in the middle of nowhere for nothing. I had looked forward to all of the magic the circus had to offer only to have my hopes crushed.
“The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern invoked all of those feelings of wonder and anticipation that I had about the circus. The descriptions of the sights, the sounds, and the smells that you can only experience in a carnival atmosphere really made me feel like I was right there.
The book does not tell the story of any ordinary circus, however. This is Le Cirque des Reves, a magical circus that arrives without warning. Within its tents, the stage is set for a fierce competition—an impossible battle of skill and imagination between Celia and Marco, who have been trained in magic since they were young. Now is the time for them to show what they have learned. However, this encounter can end with only one of them standing.
This book is part fantasy, part romance, and part intrigue. There is no one category that could define this book. It was fun, and I wanted to find out what happened in the end. The cast of colorful characters was fun to get to know, and it was devastating to lose some of them.
Morgenstern’s descriptive prose was so intense that I could picture in my mind exactly the way everything looked and felt. I still have those pictures in my head. “The Night Circus” left me wanting to go to that magical place. I want to find that circus, or any circus or carnival for that matter, so I can experience everything that goes with it.
Unfortunately, circuses are few and far between. Their live performances have been replaced by screens. We are so inundated, as a society, with computer-generated imagery, that illusions and circus magic no longer impress younger audiences.
But nothing can replace a good book. Your imagination is always more brilliant than anything that can be produced on a screen.