This post is part of the Huffington Post Book Club series covering The Night Circus. Click here to read our community discussions and thoughts.
Is The Night Circus a novel of surrealism? A magical jaunt? A love story? None of the above or all three? It's hard to tell, isn't it? It's been more than a week since I finished and I still have a hard time wrapping my hands around the story.
I will admit, I have had love on my mind. My best friend just got married and four more of my friends will be getting married this year. One wedding in particular, I will be officiating. So, between bridesmaid dresses, veils, flowers, plane tickets, phone-call-freak outs, and becoming a minister; I read The Night Circus and I had love on my mind. This maybe one of the reasons I find this book - above all else - an eerie, dense love story, played muted in a minor cord.
I should also point out that I am an adamant fantasy reader. Which might be why I don't find this book "magical" like a majority of other readers. There is magic, sure - they are Magicians - this is to be expected, but the magic brings a surreal quality to the material, not a magical one. The idea of surreal versus magical is upheld, at least in my opinion, by the lack of a protagonist. You move along the story through the eyes of several individuals. Each person is experiencing the magic in his or her own way; to some it's old hat, easy as breathing; to others it is new and strange; and to some it is an expression of devotion. The Night Circus is not Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings - there is no main character to introduce us to a "magical world;" and while the circus certainly has magic, the world of The Night Circus is not Narnia, it isn't even Fillory.
Magic for me - and please excuse my return to the musical metaphor - is bright, even when it is dark. The tones in magical worlds are filled with major cords. It courses through the world, illuminating it. The minor cords pierce through the score, they are not muted; they ensnare readers in traps and bring them down, so that he or she may be brought up again. This is true for a majority of magical works - The Illiad, The Hobbit, Le Morte D'Arthur, and any Xanth novel, ever. These books are blinding, leaving images burnt on my retinas. The Night Circus in comparison is a willow of the wisp or a gypsy song heard in the distance - something fragile, dark, and alluring.
Where am I going with this? To be honest, I am not sure. I thought I was going to write about all of the way the love story inspired me. How it touched me that people can fall in love through actions, instead of words; and how being haunted (or a story being haunting), doesn't always have to be scary - it can be comforting. But, hasn't that all been written about before? Instead, I wrote about the thing I thought this book wasn't about: Magic.
So, maybe I am wrong. It isn't a book about love or a book about magic. Perhaps, The Night Circus is a book about memories and shadows; weaving between the cracks in your mind to pull up other memories, other moments of brilliance. After all, "old stories have a habit of being told and retold and changed. Each subsequent storyteller puts his or her marks upon it. Whatever truth the story once has is buried in bias and embellishment. The reasons do not matter as much as the story itself."
There is a bit of magic in that.