<em>The Night Circus</em> by Erin Morgenstern
There's something to be said about a book that stays with you long after you've read it. Or when you pawn your copy off on every friend you know is capable of reading. And then your book club reads it, and you're just thrilled to have another excuse to talk about it.
It's been nearly two months since I finished reading The Night Circus, and yet I still find myself singing its praises on a rather frequent basis. If anyone asks me what I think they should be reading, I immediately suggest this book. They'll ask what it's about, intrigued, but I get too excited and tongue-tied to give a proper description. So I'll save you the trouble of listening to me ramble and give you the description from Amazon instead:
Erin Morgenstern’s dark, enchanting debut takes us to the black and white tents of Le Cirque des Reves, a circus that arrives without warning, simply appearing when yesterday it was not there. Young Celia and Marco have been cast into a rivalry at The Night Circus, one arranged long ago by powers they do not fully understand. Over time, their lives become more intricately enmeshed in a dance of love, joy, deceit, heartbreak, and magic. Author Morgenstern knows her world inside and out, and she guides the reader with a confident hand. The setting and tone are never less than mesmerizing. The characters are well-realized and memorable. But it is the Night Circus itself that might be the most memorable of all.
Every word of that is accurate. From the very first page, when introduced to the circus, you are sucked in. With it's simple color scheme, fantastical clocks, sights and smells, acts and magic, it's almost depressing to think such a thing doesn't actually exist. In a clever twist, I found the circus to be the main character, outshining even Marco and Celia. It's so fully realized, so beautiful, and so full of life that I could read 400 pages of that and never be bored. Each tent is full of whimsical magic that, were it a real thing, I'd probably wind up following the circus around the globe like many of the people in the book. Because everything is described in such perfect, minute detail, it's easy to picture the setting in your mind, and place yourself within it. Books are meant to be an escape, and this is one of the only books I've read where I actually felt as though I'd been transported elsewhere.
But the rest of the characters are just as interesting and unique as the circus that surrounds them. Marco and Celia's story is compelling yet heartbreaking, and regardless of the fact that these two have been pitted against each other in a macabre contest of skills, you can't pick one over the other because you don't want either of them to lose. You want them to be able to overcome their circumstances so badly that on more than one occasion I found myself hunched desperately over the book, mentally pleading with the author to do something, already! Fix this! There has to be something you can do! It's rare that I get so emotionally invested in a piece of fiction, but this book took me on a roller coaster of emotions. And I loved every minute.
What's so great about this story is that it's like a giant puzzle the reader has to piece together. Details you don't think are important are exactly the opposite, and while you may not understand something in the beginning, the fog fades after a while. Everything is put together so carefully, and it isn't until you turn the last page that you realize how much work went into constructing the narrative. Everything happens for a reason, whether it's good or bad. It takes true skill to weave a tale like this one, and Erin Morgenstern absolutely blew me away. Not only is this a fantastic debut novel, it's probably one of the best things I've read...ever.
(And if you still need any convincing, think The Illusionist meets The Prestige. Basically, all things awesome.)