Erin Morgenstern 2011
The Book Jacket Blurb:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements preceded it, no paper notices plastered on lampposts and billboards. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
Within these nocturnal black-and-white-striped tents awaits an utterly unique experience, a feast for the senses, where one can get lost in a maze of clouds, meander through a lush garden made of ice, stare in wonderment as the tattooed contortionist folds herself into a small glass box, and become deliciously tipsy from the scents of caramel and cinnamon that waft through the air.
Welcome to Le Cirque des Reves.
Beyond the smoke and mirrors, however, a fierce competition is under way -- a contest between two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood to compete in a "game" to which they have been irrevocably bound by their mercurial masters. Unbeknownst to the players, this is a game in which only one can be left standing and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will.
As the circus travels around the world, the feats of magic gain fantastical new heights with every stop. The game is well under way and the lives of all those involved -- the eccentric circus owner, the elusive contortionist, the mystical fortune teller, and a pair of red-headed twins born backstage among them -- are swept up in a wake of spells and charms.
But when Celia discovers that Marco is her adversary, they begin to think of the game not as a competition but as a wonderful collaboration. With no knowledge of how the game must end, they innocently tumble headfirst into love. A deep, passionate, and magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm wherever they so much as brush hands.
Their masters will pull the strings, however, and this unforeseen occurrence forces them to intervene with dangerous consequences, leaving the lives of everyone from the performers to the patrons hanging in the balance.
What Hooked Me:
Perhaps it helped that I read this book slowly and leisurely, for there are lots to imagine and visualize in this highly creative debut novel. I found each inspired illusion, each magical tent (i.e. the Labyrinth, Celia's Feats of Illustrious Illusions, Widget's Anthology of Memory, the Hall of Mirrors, the Carousel, the Ice Garden, the Cloud Maze, the Pool of Tears) and each character truly enchanting and imaginative. I definitely would love to see a movie that would dare capture this amazing Night Circus.
'The circus arrives without warning. ... No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. ... The towering tents are striped in white and black, no gold and crimsons to be seen. No color at all, save for the neighboring trees and the grass of the surrounding fields.'(opening lines)
'And the black sign painted in white letters that hangs upon the gates, the one that reads:
Opens at Nightfall
Closes at Dawn.'(3)
'People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.'(28)
'Chandresh relishes reactions. Genuine reactions, not mere polite applause. He often values the reactions over the show itself. A show without an audience is nothing after all. In the response of the audience, that is where the power of the performance lives. ... He was raised in the theater, sitting in boxes at the ballet. Being a restless child, he quickly grew bored with the familiarity of the dances and chose instead to watch the audiences. To see when they smiled and gasped, when the women sighed and when the men began to nod off.'(45)
'The face of the clock becomes a darker grey, and then black, with twinkling stars where the numbers had been previously. The body of the clock, which has been methodically turning itself inside out and expanding, is now entirely subtle shades of white and grey. And it is not just pieces, it is figures and objects, perfectly carved flowers and planets and tiny books with actual paper pages that turn. There is a silver dragon that curls around part of the now visible clockwork, a tiny princess in a carved tower who paces in distress, awaiting an absent prince. Teapots that pour into teacups and minuscule curls of steam that rise from them as the seconds tick. Wrapped presents open. Small cats chase small dogs. An entire game of chess is played.'(69)
'Celia smiles. "You are looking for someone who can perform in the midst of a crowd?" she asks Chandresh. He nods. "I see," Celia says. Then, so swiftly she appears not even to move, she picks up her jacket from the stage and flings it out over the seats where, instead of tumbling down, it swoops up, folding into itself. In the blink of an eye folds of silk are glossy black feathers, large beating wings, and it is impossible to pinpoint the moment when it is fully raven and no longer cloth. The raven swoops over the red velvet seats and up into the balcony where it flies in curious circles.'(75)
'Word spreads quickly in such select circles, and so begins a tradition of reveurs attending Le Cirque des Reves decked in black or white or grey with a single shock of red: a scarf or hat, or, if the weather is warm, a red rose tucked into a lapel or behind an ear. It is also quite helpful for spotting other reveurs, a simple signal for those who know. ... There are those who have the means, and even some who do not but creatively manage anyway, to follow the circus from location to location. There is no set itinerary that is public knowledge. The circus moves from place to place every few weeks, with the occasional extended break, and no one truly knows where it might appear until the tents are already erected in a field in a city or a countryside, or somewhere in between.'(142)
'They seek each other out, these people of such specific like mind. They tell how they found the circus, how those first few steps were like magic. Like stepping into a fairy tale under a curtain of stars. They pontificate upon the fluffiness of the popcorn, the sweetness of the chocolate. They spend hours discussing the quality of the light, the heat of the bonfire.'(143)
'Life takes us to unexpected places sometimes. The future is never set in stone, remember that.'(169)
"Secrets have power," Widget begins. "And the power diminishes when they are shared, so they are best kept and kept well. Sharing secrets, real secrets, important ones, with even one person, will change them. Writing them down is worse, because who can tell how many eyes might see them inscribed on paper, no matter how careful you might be with it. So it's really best to keep your secrets when you have them, for their own good, as well as yours."(173)
"It is too difficult to see a situation for what it is when you are in the midst of it." Tsukiko says. "it is too familiar. Too comfortable."(188)
'The past stays on you the way powdered sugar stays on your fingers. Some people can get rid of it but it's still there, the events and things that pushed you to where you are now.'(199)
'He looks around at the jars and bottles, intrigued but hesitant to open another. He picks up a frosted-glass mason jar and unscrews the silver metal lid. The jar is not empty but contains a small amount of white sands which shifts at the bottom. The scent that wafts from it is the unmistakable smell of the ocean, a bright summer day at the seashore. He can hear the sound of waves crashing against the sand, the cry of a seagull. There is something mysterious as well, something fantastical. The flag of a pirate ship on the far horizon, a mermaid's tail flipping out of sight behind a wave. The scent and feeling are adventurous and exhilarating with the salty tinge of a sea breeze.'(238)
'The striped canvas sides of the tent stiffens, the soft surface hardening as the fabric changes to paper. Words appear over the walls, typeset letters overlapping handwritten text. Celia can make out snatches of Shakespearean sonnets and fragments of hymns to Greek goddesses as the poetry fills the tent. It covers the walls and the ceiling and spreads out over the floor. ... And then the tent begins to open, the paper folding and tearing. The black striped stretch out into empty space as their white counterparts brighten, reaching upward and breaking apart into branches.'(259)
'Memories begin to creep forward from hidden corners of your mind. Passing disappointments. Lost chances and lost causes. Heartbreaks and pain and desolate, horrible loneliness. ... Sorrows you thought long forgotten mingle with still-fresh wounds. ... the stone feels heavier in your hand. ... When you drop it in the pool to join the rest of the stones, you feel lighter. As though you have released something more than a smooth polished piece of rock.'(282-283)
"Love is fickle and fleeting," Tsukiko continues. "It is rarely a solid foundation for decisions to be made upon, in any game."(306)
'Old stories have a habit of being told and retold and changed. Each subsequent storyteller puts his or her marks upon it. Whatever truth the story once has is buried in bias and embellishment. The reasons do not matter as much as the story itself.'(345)
"It is important," the man in the grey suit interrupts. "someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find the treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice up of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it..."(381)
a Doubleday Hardcover First Edition
Book qualifies for: 100 + Reading Challenge