switterbug (Betsey)'s Reviews > The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
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Jul 07, 11

it was amazing
Read in July, 2011

Illusion and reality intersect and overlap to reveal a luminous, mesmerizing character-- Le Cirque des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams). As the sun is the center of the solar system, the Circus of Dreams is the central character of this enchanting tale. Like a magnetic field, Le Cirque des Rêves pulls in other characters like orbiting satellites around a bright star. This isn't your childhood circus--rather, this is more in tune with Lewis Carroll or M.C. Escher--a surreal and hypnotic place of the imagination and spirit.

Le Cirque des Rêves is a dazzling venue of magical intensity and Tarot images, a story of dreams and desires. It is an invention that reflects the Jungian collective unconscious and personifies the archetypes of opposing forces--night/day, good/evil, life/death, safety/danger, among other symbols and experiences that have repeated themselves since ancient times. The manipulations of these images and forces speak to the core of the story.

At the end of the nineteenth century in London, two self-regarding necromancers arrange a duel, part of an ongoing contest reaching back through their long history. Prospero the Magician and "the man in the grey suit" agree to provide a worthy opponent each for this contest of illusion, a competition that is only partly visible to the reader's eye. Prospero trains his daughter, Celia; the grey-suited man selects a fitting boy, Marco, from an orphanage. Sealed with a ring in a familiar ritual, the turf war proceeds.

When Marco and Celia become adults, the duel commences within the venue of the atmospheric, aromatic circus, which is open only at night, in colors black and white (and shades of silver). The duel and its setting is showcased in its artistry of conception, the beauty of its containment, and the mystery of its migration. Le Cirque des Rêves travels silently, invisibly, from country to country, unannounced. There's a tent of stars, a room of sculpted ice, a pool of tears. The fireplace burns eternally with a white-hot blaze. The landscape of the duel's setting is a phantasmagorical tour de force.

The cast is inseparable from Le Cirque des Rêves. Among others, they include the tattooed contortionist, Tsukiko, the twins, Poppet and Widget, (born on the dawn of the circus' opening night,) and the Tarot reader, Isobel. Marco is a chameleon-like magician and Celia is the Isis of alchemy. They mirror the archetypes of Jung's collective unconscious--the shadow; the animus/anima; the hero; the mother; sacrifice/rebirth; the Self, and the wise old man. The tarot readings, like the story's progression, are dynamic components of character transformation, digging down to the layers of repressed memories and sublime intuition.

Within this process of transformation, the individual characters of this story must journey through uncharted terrain like portals in the soul, proceeding toward a cosmic relationship with humanity. How to separate reality from illusion and arrive at the totality of the Self? What obstacles and pathologies must be overcome to achieve a kindred consciousness? Likewise, the duelists become lovers, complicating the stakes of the game--if you win, you lose.

A magnificent, spectral clock is commissioned from a renowned German clockmaker, a clock that is mystical and harlequin, dreamlike and figurative. It stands like an emissary at the gates of the circus, a timepiece of magical stratification, an emblem of temporal shifts. No patrons can enter until dusk, and all must be gone by dawn.

In Erin Morganstern's enchanting first novel, illusion and reality are two sides of the same coin. Inspiration and imagination become tangible territory, a dream circus of the wakened mind, a magical mystery tour of the unconscious. This is a Fool's (Hero's) journey, an adventure for the immortal child and enduring lovers, to a star-filled tunnel and a silver sky. Step from bare grass to painted ground, eye the towering tents of black and white stripes. Enter.
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Comments (showing 1-16 of 16) (16 new)

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message 1: by Daniel (new)

Daniel I like your review: it is very poetic and heartfelt. I will pick this up, someday.


switterbug (Betsey) Thank you, Daniel. That made my day!


Jill Yes, this is indeed a sublime review...!


Olivia Love this review makes me won't to read this book


switterbug (Betsey) Read it! It's like--Calgon, take me away!


Teresa Lukey I so want to read this one. It comes out on Tuesday and I plan on purchasing it. I have been entering every giveaway possible, but no dice.


Jill Teresa, this is a good one! Different, innovative, creative, and fun-filled...


switterbug (Betsey) Worth the investment!


message 10: by Will (new) - rated it 3 stars

Will Byrnes Yes, Carrol and Escher is right, with a dose of Bradbury. Not sure I am with you on the Jung stuff but all things are possible. A thoughtful and intriguing review that expands our appreciation for an interesting book.


message 11: by Tina (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tina I loved it too! Great review!


switterbug (Betsey) Thank you, Tina!


message 13: by Jan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jan Rice What a creative review, switterbug. I agree with your rating although I seem to have gotten there by an entirely different route.


switterbug (Betsey) Thank ou so much, Jan!


Harry Excellent review...Enjoying it much!!


switterbug (Betsey) Thank you, Harry!


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