The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern: I recently finished this book, having finally opened it long, long after my book club had finished reading it in July. For the first time in my life, this fall I took a hiatus from reading books. I can’t believe I am saying it, but I got burned out on reading after spending the entire year prior reading all the books that I was teaching my sophomore honors students. No wonder why a lot of kids don’t like to read! This was the first time in my life I experienced this kind of reading fatigue, and I felt very off-balance. I was so excited to crack this open and be hooked by the first sentence: The circus arrives without warning. The entire story was rich with mystery, intrigue, magic, tension, and vivid imagery. At times, different chapters focused on different characters who somehow had a role in the running of this particular circus, giving you an almost-omnicient view, but never quite. It always felt like anything might happen next. The story is set in and around London in the late 1800′s. Two illusionists are magically connected together at a young age and trained to outwit the other, only neither knows who the other is, where this challenge will take place, or how they will know they have “won.” Enter the Circus of Dreams; a magical circus that springs up with no advertisements in a field near you and stays for about a week, opening at dusk and closing at dawn. All the tents are black-and-white-striped, and the performers are also wearing black or white. Things exist in the tents that one could never have imagined, and visitors form a sort of cult following, showing up wearing a red scarf to signify that they are a circus groupie. And what will happen when our two illusionists finally discover not only that they are opponents, but that they are also in love…and that they are magically and painfully bound to the circus? I was so enthralled with this story that I found moments in my day to read that I had not known existed. And, when it was over, I felt the satisfying feeling that I’d just spent my time well, coupled with a feeling of melancholy because I’d never get to know what happened after the last page . You know that feeling? I hope so. It’s rare and delicious.
The whole vibe of this book really reminded me of another book I loved and got sucked into probably ten years ago, before I got married and my life became a circus – ha ha! It was Carter Beats the Devil. Anyone else read it? I have been pleasantly surprised by the joy I find in reading books about fictional magicians in the early 1900′s, just like I can’t believe I like fantasy books. Ain’t life grand?