The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was one of the first books I reviewed on this blog. It’s one of my favourite things to reread at this time of year. It’s one of my favourite books, and when I flicked through my copy in September looking for a quote to doodle, I was flooded with all those fond feelings and suddenly really missed the characters. Delving back into this was a really lovely thing to do around Christmas time.
The Night Circus is now also one of the few books I own in duplicate. I’ve owned the hardback since 2011/2012, but when Christmas shopping for a friend I picked up the new Vintage Classics edition. However I actually decided that the original is nicer, having a prettier spine and nice typesetting inside, and therefore the one I wanted to gift – and so I’ve held onto the Vintage edition for me!
I love a book where something different leaps out on each reading, and that is certainly true of The Night Circus for me. This time, what I was really paying attention to is the structuring. The narrative jumps back and forth in time, filling in a complex timeline of events between 1873 and 1902, which is a style I really enjoy reading. This time I really appreciated how carefully scenes are arranged and drip fed to build the intricate detail of narrative.
I also spent a lot of time appreciating the cast of truly wonderful characters. Almost every one of these I can imagine meeting, so many of them I’d love to have a conversation with. Celia I adore, but also Tsukiko, Herr Friedrick Thiessen, Mr Barris, the Burgess sisters, the Murray twins. A character I’d not thought about too much before but really appreciated this time around is Chandresh, who is so heavily affected by all of the events without understanding. His arc is, I think, one of the most sympathetic.
spoilers this para
Bailey’s role, however, is one that I found unsatisfying. I don’t feel like I really know the character very well: he’s meek and mild enough to spend his childhood traipsing around after his bullying older sister, he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. He loves the circus. Really, that isn’t enough – and since the circus and the rêveurs are so full of vivid characters, I don’t quite understand why he’s so bland. It bothers me that such a fantastic character as Poppet ends up taking so much interest in him – but because she has seen it, not for his own merit. She’s far from a manic pixie dream girl, but that’s what she becomes next to Bailey.
Obviously though, that isn’t enough to diminish my opinion of the book as a whole, and I’m sure I’ll be rereading it again in a couple of years’ time. All the details of the circus are such a comforting thing to sink into time and time again, and I love the description Morgenstern gives about everything, making this such a sensory novel – the smells, sounds, the shade of the light in each scene. The plot is broad and moves gently forward to a beautiful conclusion, and when closing the book, I’m always impatient to go back.