I just finished reading “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern. It is by far the best book I have read in some time. To be a cliché, I was “enchanted” by the story. When asked to describe it, I honestly am not sure I could. It is an updated version of Romeo and Juliet which adds magic, illusion, and charms. It is not a typical romance, nor is it something that can easily be categorized as science fiction (though it dances on the edge of fantasy), while at the same time being anything but. I wish I had better descriptors to encapsulate how wonderful I think this story is, but my mind goes foggy and my tongue becomes tied because too many things want to escape it at once. The story brings you in to a world that you weren’t sure you would want to become a part of , but once there, you don’t want to leave. It entrances you and much like the circus it circles around, you cannot tell whether you are in a dream, or in a reality full of magical possibilities.
Imagine love letters made visible. Each written word brought to physical reality and yet somehow intangible at the same time. These are the things described in the novel; what the story becomes to the reader. And throughout it all you cherish each word, because like the circus itself, the book has to close, it has to finish, there is an end. But that’s the beauty, it will go on forever, like the wizard in the oak tree, which is what is so beautiful about it. I typically write quotes when I read, when I come across something worth remembering, worth sharing, worth living by, and there were a few that I collected from this text, but one particular quote grasps at the importance:
“Someone needs to tell these tales..There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words.” (Spoken by the character Alexander.)
What I found most fulfilling in this novel is the idea of dreaming and reality. We may not know which is which, we are unsure throughout whether we are stepping foot in a real time and place, or simply an illusion, but that is the fantastical, beautiful, and romantic part of it. Stories are dreams, an escape, from the mundane nuances of life. This book accomplishes that and makes you believe that those dreams can and will become reality. To quote another line, “we lead strange lives, chasing our dream from place to place.” (Elizabeth.) That is already life, as we know it, why not add fantastical elements and make dreams a reality?
Over the summer I came across a quote that moved me. I shared it then, and I will share it again:
“The writer by nature of his profession is a dreamer and a conscious dreamer. He must imagine, and imagination takes humility, love and great courage. How can you create a character without living and the struggle that goes with love?” (Carson McCullers.)
The opening to this novel has a quote from Oscar Wilde:
“A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
This quote also struck me. It tugged at my thoughts and emotions, the way indecision permeates and causes restlessness. Both quotes touch upon the struggles of dreamers, the path we take towards illumination of mind and emotion. At one part in the novel Alexander says, “Nothing but a dreamer longing for something he does not ever understand,” to which another character, Widget, states, “I don’t think there is anything wrong with being a dreamer.”
There are so many motifs in this novel, so many moments of symbolism and foreshadowing, it is an English major’s dream (pun intended) to read. It encapsulates all the things learned in classes and all the things that writer’s aim for. When I began reading the novel I was unsure of the writing style, but by the end I am positive that it is another layer of wistful ingenious, something Erin Morgenstern perfected as an integral part of her story.
When everything is black and white and gray, don’t be afraid to stand out and wish for something more. We may not understand the rules, the game we play, but in the end we make our own destiny, and in the making we can tell our stories to others. Don’t be afraid to wear a splash of red among the shadows, to acknowledge that you are a dreamer yourself, a Reveur.