The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday 2011)
The mysterious Cirque des Rêves (Circus of Dreams) forms the backdrop to an absorbing tale of love, clockwork, manipulation and magic set at the turn of the 19th century.
The novel opens with a tantalising glimpse of the circus before taking us back to the beginning of the story, in which magicians Prospero and Alexander set up ‘a gentlemanly wager’, pitting student against student in the latest of a series of manipulative duels by proxy.
These two characters garner little sympathy, in contrast to the fascinating collection of circus performers, theatrical impresario, engineer, clockmaker, couturier and stylists who make up the rest of the cast. As each of their stories unfolds we become increasingly invested in their lives, hoping against hope that the story will end well as their carefully constructed world begins to crumble.
I loved the writing style of this novel. The author’s vivid descriptions created an immersive sensory experience which I did not want to end. I wanted to be back in that world, seeing and smelling and tasting. I wanted to bring a tangible reminder back out into my own world: A red scarf. A hoop-jumping kitten. One of Herr Thiessen’s fantastical clocks. I’ll have to settle for buying my own copy of the book, to read again and again.