Thursday, November 29, 2012

Magic Enough

Imagine a circus, which arrives in a field, at night while you sleep.  Unlike every other circus that you have ever seen, the only colors on the tents and decorations are black and white.   Unlike any circus that you have ever heard of, this circus is open from dusk to dawn.  This is the circus that Erin Morgenstern imagined in her novel, The Night Circus

In the night circus, unexplainable things happen. These happenings are not the result of magic, but of the skill of two particular people who are engaged in a secret contest with each other.  The contestants, Celia and Marco, claim not to be magicians or wizards, but they are able to make the circus feel as though it is enchanted.  Celia is an illusionist in the circus, and her feats range from changing the color of her dress to complement the clothing of others, to arranging for the circus to travel via train between cities such as Sydney, New York, and London.  Marco works behind the scenes, but creates attractions that astound Celia and the circus goers alike.  The story is set in the 1890s, and the first years of the 20th century, mostly in London and in cities in the Eastern United States, but it could have been set anywhere and in any time.

Bailey is a young boy when he first discovers the circus, and he is immediately enthralled.  He meets twins, Poppet and Widget, who are about his age, have a circus show, and treat him as though he is their best friend.  Poppet has the ability to read the future in the stars, while Widget can read people's pasts. What Widget reads, he records, not in writing, but in bottles containing smells that remind people of of where they have been.  Poppet realizes that there is something special about Bailey, even if no one can quite figure out what it is.  My favorite quote from the book is spoken by Celia to Bailey, and it is this:  "You're in the right place at the right time, and you care enough to do what needs to be done.  Sometimes that's enough."  In this circus, it turns out that it is.

Morgenstern's circus is amazing.  One tent contains a cloud maze.  In another, everything is made of ice.  A wishing tree keeps wishes constantly burning, and feeding off of each other.  The entire circus always smells like popcorn and caramel.  I could go right now.

I listened to the book on CD, and while the reader was great, I think that I may have liked this one even better and found it more powerful, if I had read it myself.  Apparently a movie is in the development stages. If it is done right, it should turn out to be a "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" for adults.

At the end of the book, a visitor to the circus is handed a business card with an "@thenightcircus" email address on it.  Even though I'm an adult, and generally am not suckered in by these gimmicks, I am finding myself oddly tempted to write and let the addressee know that I really love his circus, and think it should swing by Michigan soon.

Next up on CD:  The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Still Reading:  Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

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