“The circus arrives without warning …
And the black sign painted on white letters that hangs upon the gates reads
Opens at Nightfall / Closes at Dawn”
The opening pages of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern are tantalising in their detail. The author has created, in a single moment, the simplest image of a circus – tents, acrobats, fire-eaters – and entwined it with a definite aura of other-ness. What kind of circus is only open at night? What kind of circus has no colour other than black and white? This book demands your full attention and rewards you with absolute delight.
The premise of the story is simple – two opposing schools of thought, in the art of teaching and practice of magic, have devised a competition that plays out over years. Each takes a single student, and after years of training they set an arena and let their students compete, with the winner being the last left standing. Marco and Celia are the chosen students and The Night Circus, a mysterious, dazzling, entrancing and spectacular circus, set in the late 1800s, is the chosen venue.
There is very little by way of traditional about this circus. While there are animal tamers and acrobats, there is also a tent of scents, an Ice Garden, and a Paper Menagerie. But the centrepiece, and lodestone of this circus, is the magical competition, symbolised by a fantastic clock around which the whole circus is created. Erin Morgenstern has crafted a delicious flight of the imagination, a glorious and magical exploration of the nature of competition. It’s not a simple book to read but it is one that unsurprisingly, I think will be read again and again, in fact I would go so far as to recommend it as a read-aloud story to be shared with friends and family.
Available now: Random House RRP$32.95