The Night Circus: A Review image

In The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern spins a tale that is magical in its prose and practical in its illusions. To me, it is as fine a debut novel as can be found.

Morgenstern’s prose is poetry mostly and not without wit. Her novel’s structure is a marvel, perhaps a study in magic itself for Le Cirque des Reves—the Circus of Dreams—arrives and departs without notice, opening only at midnight and closing at dawn.

The dream circus is a world of black and white with wafts of caramel weaving in and out of striped tents that offer moments of awe and acts unknown, swirling round an extraordinary love story, truly a circus for any rêveur.

There is the Wishing Tree where every wish is a light always lit; there is the illusionist who appears and disappears as if she were born to it;  there is the Labyrinth that will take you up and down, sideways, or to the top of your world.

If you are fortunate, perhaps chosen is a better word, you may receive a silver pass to the Circus of Dreams for the rest of your life. It is a tempting way to live for every tent tells a story within a story as “there are many kinds of magic,” seemingly unending.

The Night Circus opens in 1885, near the midnight of the 19th century and closes in 1903, just after the dawn of the 20th century. Anything and everything seems possible, as the planet is still more dream than reality so there are stories yet to tell, and what is more magical than a story in which so much seems to happen all on its own.

If you read The Night Circus, do pay attention to time and its relationship to permanence or endurance but if you lose track of time— and you probably will but you won’t mind—remember this:

“The whole of Le Cirque des Reves is formed by series of circles. Perhaps it is a tribute to the origin of the word “circus,” deriving from the Greek kirkos meaning circle, or ring. There are many such nods to the phenomenon of the circus in a historical sense, though it is hardly a traditional circus. Rather than a single tent with rings enclosed within, this circus contains clusters of tents like pyramids, some large and others quite small. They are set within circular paths, contained within a circular fence. Looping and continuous.”

As I have mentioned previously, Stephanie Carmichael, a fine writer, wrote a review of The Night Circus that captures its essence completely, and I hope you take a moment to read Stephanie’s review found here.

(All excerpts are from Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Thorndike ME: Center Point Large Print edition by arrangement with Doubleday, 2011.)



ROW80 Wednesday Words

This ROW80 round is one of continuous goal revision for me yet challenge is growth, even if my vision is a bit cloudy at the moment. However, I am considering not writing fiction for I suspect I am a better reader and editor than a storyteller when it comes to fiction.

As for nonfiction, I do have a lifelong love affair with the essay and seem to pursue that form more than storytelling. It is not the first time I have met this issue but I do believe it is the first time I may have to choose. Yet, I write, which is what is important to me. My revised goals are:

Write 500 words per day, write a regular blog at least once a week, and complete the ROW80 check-ins on Sunday and Wednesday.

So far, the revision feels comfortable.

13 thoughts on “The Night Circus: A Review

    1. Ah, my dear Morgan, I have toyed with memoir and do still. I suspect I am a bit bogged down in the pantser-plotter issue, and I need to throw it overboard and write so I know where I am going. Guess I just did! Thanks for your support, Morgan; it is much appreciated.

      Peace to you my friend,


  1. Echoing Adrian here, I must say.. you are a powerful and compelling essayist, Karen, one who speaks with the humor and wisdom of maturity yet the curiosity and joy of youth. It’s a heady mix coming to your blog.

    That said, if you feel yourself called to fiction, then you should do it . As you know, there is no “either/or”. Explore your passions and honor them (and yourself).


    1. I love fiction, Eden; it is a constant in my life, almost any genre. That said, I am shifting to reading more fiction, and if in the process a story or two emerges from me, fine. Always, you and Adrian support me, which makes this journey so delightful.



      1. I think fiction is the way we work most of these time (I’ve been reading some of Greta Christina’s page on sexual fantasies and how they do not imply certain things about ourselves…that they are normal, human, and ways of just contemplating non-real [to us] parts of the world). The point was clearly that we all use some fictional stories to explore life, whether we write them, read them, watch them… Fiction is often more real to us than reality.

        I’m glad you have shifted to reading more of it. I need to do this one of these days. At the moment, I’m truly enjoying reading biographies and histories. But that will change.


  2. I can’t speak to your fiction having only read a very little, but you are a powerful and compelling essayist. Your humanity and wisdom shine through. I never read one of your posts without feeling enriched and enlightened. You are a writer–keep the path broad and see where it leads.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.