“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 that they might do because of it…” Erin Morgenstern – The Night Circus
Every so often, I abandon my to-be-read pile and go hunting for one of the old favourites inhabiting my bookshelf. Which is how I found myself reading Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus again. It’s a vivid dream of a book. In a world of exaggerated Victorian aesthetics, two illusionists are locked in a competition of skill and endurance. The centre of which is a circus called Le Cirque Des Rêves, a wonder all in black and white, where magic is real and illusion is the trick.
It’s a luminous, weird and bewitching novel. A literary fantasy that reads, in places, like poetry. What appeals to me is how Morgenstern uses words like a palette of paint, so that the reader’s experience wandering through the story is the same as any patron entering the circus. We are completely enveloped by its sights, sounds, smells and tastes. As a repeat reader, I’ve been drawn back into the lush setting and found a new trick of the light to love each time.
The Night Circus has become, for me, a metaphor for my own creative process. Which is why I feel so at home in the story. It’s an exploration of how much art gives to the artist and how much it demands. The existence and continual evolution of Le Cirque Des Rêves depends on a web of interconnected characters and events, where the strength of each component helps it to survive as a whole. If one element is out of balance, the whole thing might break. And it all depends on the uncertainty of human hands. Touching on themes of competition, external pressure and the power of giving yourself free reign to create, the novel also brings up the joy of collaboration and what comes from asking for help. Reading The Night Circus always leaves me with two distinct feelings: longing for a place that doesn’t exist and the urge to go and make some more art. Which I think is all you can ask of a favourite book.
Síle Englert is a poet and fiction writer from London, Ontario. Her writing has appeared in journals such as CV2, Room Magazine, Crannóg Magazine (Ireland), The /temz/ Review, and Canthius. Her first chapbook, THREADBARE, was just published by Baseline Press (Autumn, 2019).