TITLE: The Night Circus
AUTHOR: Erin Morgenstern
LENGTH: 528 pages
SUMMARY: (via amazon.com) The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.
BRIDGE: I think the most obvious bridge for this title is Dickens. The first book that springs to mind is Great Expectations. Elements of Pip and Estella’s relationship linger over Marco and Celia and the adults who influence them are similar to Pip’s benefactor and Miss Havisham. These characters are on a quest and so one could also draw parallels to any classic quest story as well. Morgenstern’s Victorian England and its New World counterparts are impeccably crafted and the magical elements are subtly unbelievable and awing, as good magic should be. By studying the speech, customs and settings of the story, one could draw comparisons to any of Dickens’ work or other Victorian authors. There are even subtle nods to Grimm stories that one could map throughout the book. The intricate braid of plotlines would also be an interesting point of discussion. Students could map the different plots and physically draw them on timelines to have them intersect at the crucial points. This would also be an excellent book with which to study character development and relationships. The complexity of the characters and their relationships would also require some charting.
READERS: Not for the faint of heart, I would recommend this book more for high schoolers and adults. I do not think many middle school readers would have the maturity to understand the complexity of Celia and Marco’s world. Readers who enjoy magical stories will devour this book and those with a taste for the strange and imaginative will be enthralled. **A note on the audiobooks: Jim Dale’s narration is impeccable, as usual. I thoroughly enjoyed the formal and appropriately creepy reading of the entire thing. Definitely will be on my list of re-listens.
OTHER TITLES: Readers who enjoy this book will also like any of the Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, or Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.