Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus reads like a dream.
Built around the Cirque de Reves, French for the “Circus of Dreams,” a fantastic 19th-century circus that appears out of thin air and is active exclusively during the nighttime, Morgenstern crafts a tale that institutes fantasy in a pre-established historical setting. The story follows the childhoods of two gifted orphans, Celia and Marco, as they are raised by equally extraordinary—though brutish—guardians. Little do Celia and Marco know, their respective guardians have established a competition, that which will pit the two children against each other, using the Cirque de Reves as the contest’s stage. Then, when the two contestants begin to fall in love, the situation is unquestionably complicated.
The crux of The Night Circus is rooted in its themes of fantasy, family, history, and tragedy. Morgenstern layers the storylines of the novel beautifully, capturing the lives of Celia and Marco while also following the adventures of a young admirer of the Cirque de Reves, Bailey. This added storyline adds a sense of realism to the novel, as if all readers could be on the outside looking in at the circus and its tribulations. While the story is, at times, a lighthearted fantasy, it encapsulated the struggles that many adolescent readers may have. It is discovered that Celia’s mother committed suicide, which caused her to be handed off to her father, who is undoubtedly abusive in his training of her. Both Celia and Marco’s childhoods are marked by loneliness amidst activity others would likely find comforting and enjoyable within the Circus. Because of this, The Night Circus may be a more suitable read for older adolescents, who will more fully grasp the themes of the book and its multifaceted plot.
Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus would be an excellent novel for Brown Summer High School because it provides a unique challenge for adolescent readers while maintaining an incredible story. It is not always an easy task to track the plot of a book with multiple storylines, which would be a skill developed throughout the reading of this novel. Additionally, the novel’s text complexity is of a higher level than most adolescent literature, which makes it a novel that can be revisited for purposes of vocabulary development and plot-related clarity. The Night Circus transcends the boundaries of realism within its fantastical plot, but has the ability to surpass the partitions of its own genre through its relatability and literary intricacies.
By: Thea Monje
Morgenstern, Erin. The Night Circus: A Novel. New York: Anchor. 2012. Print.