The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is one of those books that I had been meaning to read for a very long time. I first spotted the hardcover in a local bookshop back when I was in college and I was immediately enchanted by it. I loved everything about the cover – the design, the description of the beautiful book inside, even the author’s name! (The Princess Bride fan in me loved that her name was Morgenstern.) However, being the broke student that I was, I didn’t actually buy it until the paperback came out. Due to my ever-growing TBR list and my busy life as a student, I didn’t actually start reading this book until the summer of 2017, six years after I first saw it in that bookshop.
“you can practically smell the caramel and wood smoke”
And boy do I wish that I had read it straight away. I can’t believe I wasted so much time not reading The Night Circus! It did, however, take me quite a long time to get through – I just finished it in February 2018, having read several books in between. This isn’t because it’s slow or difficult to read, but because it’s one of those books you can’t rush. You have to savour every delicious syllable, allowing the story to whisk you away into its wonderful, magical world. I’ve never read a book with such a strong sense of setting and atmosphere; you can practically smell the caramel and wood smoke and feel the excitement and anticipation in the air as trapeze artists swing from height to height and living statues move imperceptibly.
With a well-constructed plot that stretches over many years, this story spans a lifetime for some of its characters. However, the use of time skips and the large cast of characters does make it slightly difficult to empathise strongly with any of them; emotional moments in their lives are somewhat muted, though beautifully written. This doesn’t really detract from the quality of the book, though, because its strengths lie in its atmospheric worldbuilding. If anything, the distance I felt from the characters added to the illusion that I was an audience member taking in the show – everything in this book has a kind of intangibility, a performance of magic or illusion that you can never quite truly comprehend.
If you want to be absolutely enchanted and whisked away into a magical world, then I would definitely recommend reading The Night Circus. You can order your copy here.