When the Circus Comes to Town

I have this strange tendency to run away and join the circus.  I do it once a year or more.  Well, it’s not the circus exactly but still I pack up camp stove and sleeping bag, fold in skirts and corsets, tuck away jokes and stories until my truck is fairly bursting with the various pieces of my portable life.  Together my old 4Runner and I trundle off, near or far, to join my other family working the Renaissance Festivals.  I’ve been doing it for more than a decade now and, though I love my quiet little life on our valley ranch, there always comes a time when my feet itch to travel, when I long to lie in my tent and listen to the wind sighing in the tarp overhead, when I want nothing more than to dress up in costume, to put on my Scottish brogue, and to live among the gypsies for a while.  Like a character from an old story, I’m lured away from my humble cottage-home by the possibility of adventure, by a life lived backstage and front, by the call of magic.

It’s this tendency that might have been the reason that The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern captured my interest and held me spellbound from cover to cover.  While we ‘Rennies’ are simply everyday people working hard to treat our patrons to a world of pretend magic, the Cirque de Rev in this lovely story takes things to a whole new level.  With its many black-and-white striped tents, its cast of talented performers, its wonder of a clock, and its bonfire that burns with an eternal, bright-white flame, the magic is real.  Not even the circus family fully understands the nature of the mysterious traveling show in which they live, a nature that takes its own toll on the participants as a duel is played out behind the scenes between two powerful magic workers.

Nothing so dramatic happens in my Rennie life, of course.  We are all just people doing a peculiar thing for a living.  But if the author of this captivating tale has never spent time in a festival’s backrooms and shadows, her imagination has somehow captured the sense of what it is to be a part of this very strange way of life.

You don’t need to be a Rennie to enjoy The Night Circus though because, even more than the description of a favorite and familiar world for me, it was the story-building and the extraordinarily descriptive writing that captured me and wouldn’t let me go until well after the very last word.  Most authors work their whole lives to write with such craftsmanship and Morgenstern’s craft displays itself from beginning to end without missing a beat in between, weaving an intensely complex story of relationship and suspense that kept me guessing at every turn.

I can’t recommend this story highly enough.  It danced its enchantment into this Rennie’s eyes, spoke its inspiration into this writer’s fingers, and whispered its magic into this reader’s heart.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
published Anchor Books 2012 / isbn#  978-0307744432