I have been wanting to write about this novel for quite a while now, so when my brother visited recently I jumped at the chance to use his camera and get a couple of shots of the amazing artwork and black page edges.
This is the UK edition; the US cover, by Helen Musselwhite, is also lovely - and the main difference I would pick out is the presence of the hand holding the circus tents (the significance of which can only be revealed in reading the novel), while the UK cover underlines the romance aspect of the plot. Regardless, this is a rare and beautiful case of a book's cover cohering perfectly with its content - Vania Zouravliov's illustrations are so perfectly attuned to Erin Morgenstern's intricate and imaginative prose.
Aesthetics aside, The Night Circus is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. Even as I begin, I am doubtful I can find the words to do justice to Morgenstern's mastery. The Night Circus is utterly magical, and replete with such intense and original imagery. A botanic garden made entirely of ice, a candle-covered wishing tree, a bonfire ablaze with white fire, a maze made of clouds... And these are all features of the most enchanting and engaging image of all: the eponymous nocturnal black & white circus.
Morgenstern's prose is so wonderfully sensual - the reader is wrapped up in the sounds, smells and sensations of the Le Cirque des Rêves; caramel, autumn leaves, hot cider, candle smoke, the pages of old books... Even the names of the characters feel special when you say them out loud: Celia Bowen, Marco Alisdair, Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre, Lainie Burgess, Tsukiko, Poppet & Widget... They trip off your tongue like strange music.
The novel is a rich tapestry of allegory and imagination, beautifully blurring the boundaries between the "real" world, and one filled with dark and dangerous delights. And, as hinted at above, The Night Circus is ultimately about love; specifically, the love between an enchanter's daughter and a magician's apprentice. There is something eternal about Celia & Marco's story - Morgernstern expresses the all-or-nothing love so integral to so many great stories, suggested by snatches of Shakespeare and wisps of Oscar Wilde.
A little while ago, J.L. Schnabel of Bloodmilk wrote a post about this book, hinting at some jewels in homage to it. I can only dream of what she might conjure up in tribute.
Fold yourself into this disconcertingly tangible and totally delightful fin-de-siècle fantasy. You will not be disappointed.