The Night Circus

Magic is better when you don’t try to figure it out, and, of course, when you believe.  In Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern invites you to suspend belief and run away with a circus like none you’ve ever seen.

Two magicians, in a duel to decide who is better, create a contest with their students as the pawns in a game of illusion, manipulation, and wonder.   Marco, the orphan protegé of Alexander, and Celia, the young daughter of Prospero the Enchanter, are committed by their patrons in a test of skill and endurance.  The rules of the game are unknown but must be played to the finish.  The night circus is their venue, a place that travels mysteriously to open unannounced only at night, with circus acts that play on the imaginations of its customers.

As Marco and Celia create new attractions for the circus spectators, the night circus becomes more intricate as well as fascinating: the ice room with fragrant transparent flowers, the wishing tree of candles that never melt, the bottles of fragrances that transport to another place.  Like any circus, this one also has traditional acts  – the contortionist, the animal trainers, the fortune-teller, the illusionist.  But the actors in the night circus are not acting; they all have special gifts, and they never age.

When Marco and Celia fall in love, the game changes – especially when they learn that one must die before the game is declared over – unless they don’t play by the rules. Morgenstern adds murder and mystery to the magic, and a few ambiguous philosophical mutterings that might make you cry or laugh, depending on your own mental state when you read…

“I am tired of trying to hold things together that cannot be held…Trying to control what cannot be controlled.  I am tired of denying myself what I want for fear of breaking things I cannot fix. They will break no matter what we do.”

“It is not that bad to be trapped somewhere, then?…                      I suppose it depends on how much you like the place you’re trapped in…and how much you like whoever you’re stuck there with…”

With a mix of mystery, romance, fright, and morality, and a lot of magic,  The Night Circus is a story to get lost in and appreciate for the places it will take your mind and the illusions you may not want to decipher.

Water for Elephants – the Movie

I read this wonder of a book when it first came out and recommended it to everyone – but I only remembered the elephant who understood a foreign language and the ending – one to aspire to.  Since then, I’ve read Sara Gruen’s latest book, Ape House, and have been recommending that one too.

The movie brought it all back, with Hal Holbrook playing the old vet who tells his story. The flashback takes up most of the movie, as it did in the book, with grand circus scenes, smoldering love connections, and terrifyingly brutal cruelty.  After his parents die in a car crash, Jacob Jankowski forgoes finishing his veterinary degree and joins the circus. His skills with animals become apparent, and he becomes the unofficial vet to the circus menagerie.

Set during the Depression, the circus is struggling and buys Rosie,  the elephant, who cannot seem to follow the simplest directions.  Once the language barrier has been crossed, Jacob teaches the elephant so well that she takes center ring and saves the circus.  The menagerie director (the circus owner in the movie) abuses the elephant as well as his wife, eventually losing both to the handsome vet.

The elephant is the star of the movie, but, it’s the ending – the same in both the book and the movie – when the story returns to the old man – that will always be my favorite part.  Who wouldn’t want to join the circus?

Related Post:

Read a review of another Sara Gruen book: Ape House