Erin Morganstern wrote a letter for NaNoWriMo a year or two ago, about how her novel, The Night Circus, began. It started as a NaNo project, and when she got stuck, she sent the characters to a mysterious circus…which then took over the story. Having finally read the book, I can easily imagine why!
The novel centers around Le Cirque des Reves (Circus of Dreams), and a contest of magic. The two participants are Celia, the illusionist, and Marco, the founder’s assistant. Both were entered into the contest as children by powerful and unscrupulous men; neither fully understands the rules, or has any guess at the consequences. The circus becomes the venue, each one trying to outdo the other with more elaborate feats, more impressive tents—until the contest becomes more like a collaboration, and then finally a love story. Woven through their story is the story of Bailey, a young man drawn to the circus in a way he can’t explain, and to Poppet and Widget, twins born backstage the same night the circus opened.
By all logic, the circus should be the backdrop for the contest and the romance—but in many ways, I think the contest and the romance are really just a framework for the circus. This is a marvelously magical and surreal book, centered on a marvelously magical and surreal circus. In style it reminds me most of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, with its vague lines between dream and reality.
Grounded in circus traditions, like contortionists and acrobats, Le Cirque de Reves takes it all to a new and dizzyingly level. The circus is a maze of tents, with always something new to discover–an illusionist who changes books into birds, a climb through clouds or a walk through an ice garden, the Wishing Tree with its branches full of candles, or the tent full of bottles where every scent tells a story.
One thread of the story is the reveurs, an informal society made up of people who love the circus. They follow it from place to place, visiting favorite tents or discovering new ones, and sharing stories with each other about what they have found and what it means to them. In many ways, every reader is invited to be a reveur. We’re following the stories of Celia, Marco and Bailey, but for me at least, I was really following Le Cirque des Reves
Celia and Marco do fall in love eventually, but it’s a long way into the book before it happens, so don’t come into this expecting it to be primarily a romance. Mostly, this is a trip to a very special circus.
Author’s Site: http://erinmorgenstern.com/
Buy it here:The Night Circus