Le Cirque des Reves: The Circus of Dreams

Our newest blog contributor is Andrea who says of herself: "I like to read fiction, memoirs, comics, and zines. In my free time I write short fiction and publish zines and minicomics. I also moonlight as a freelance book editor, though I have recently taken a sabbatical from editing to focus on my own work."

“The circus arrives without warning.” So begins Erin Morgenstern’s stunning debut, set in both England and America beginning in 1873. Reading this book feels like curling up by a fireplace while a storm is raging outside and listening to a kindly grandfather tell you stories about the past. Tales of a fantastical circus only open at night, where things are so exquisite, they are almost painful to experience. There are black and white striped tents full of wonders: the ice garden, the cloud maze, the wishing tree. There is a room full of bottled memories you can open and smell. There are delicacies to eat like caramel corn and chocolate mice. And each night too there are the reveurs, self-described circus enthusiasts, wandering the grounds in red scarves as they follow the circus from town to town, aching for a more interesting life. Open to the possibility of magic.

At the heart of The Night Circus is a love story between--you guessed it--two magicians bound in a tense and complicated rivalry from birth. Celia and Marco find they can bend the rules that have been set by their mentors to make the challenge more about love and less about winning. Because to win this magical challenge, one of them has to die. And that will not do for two people in love.

Perhaps what is most remarkable about The Night Circus is it was originally conceived during NANOWRIMO, or National Novel Writing Month. This competition happens each November and encourages its participants to write a novel in one month. I personally have tried--and failed--a few times to complete this very challenge. The fact that the author was able to create such a masterpiece in this time frame is astounding. No doubt there were rounds and rounds of editing. I heard a rumor it took about 5 years start to finish, but the fact that the seeds of this brilliant, moving story were born during such a time of communal, frenzied writing, coupled with the self-doubt that inevitably comes with such a monumental task gives hope for the rest of us who are left behind in the real, boring world and feel the need to find magic of our own making.

For those of you who are already fans of The Night Circus, take a look at the site I09, where Morgenstern will be answering questions about her book from 1-2 p.m. Pacific Time on Monday, February 27th. You can submit your questions now.