“The Night Circus” – Is It All A Dream?

Book Review : The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Spoiler Alert!

          Two old adversaries create a challenge to be won. The stakes are high and the consequences far reaching. Unbeknownst to Celia and Marco only one of them will be left alive as they duel, but their instructors don’t know everything. The Night Circus is the venue for the battle of the magicians.                            Time moves, the circus mysteriously appears, the revéurs follow and the magic of love spreads. Circles of connections grow as more and more people come to Le Cirque des Revés. Poppet and Widget are the twins born the day the circus opened. Their talents give them an intrinsic understanding of the workings around them and yet they don’t quite know what they are seeing and how to resolve the problems. The circus seems like it could never end, and then Bailey, Poppet’s friend, arrives to find the circus has gone without him.

Adult Point of View

It feels as though The Night Circus is written as a dream where time is no longer sequential and events unfold in a seemingly random pattern. I had to carefully watch the headings in each chapter to help keep things sequential in my mind as I connected all the disjointed bits.

“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. – Oscar Wilde, 1888” (p. 7)

There are varying threads to follow through the course of the book. One thread I would title ‘You’, because small sections will tell you what you are experiencing as though you are a spectator in the circus. I actually ended up liking this because I felt like I was there as myself and not projecting myself into a character.

Another thread to follow is Marco, who as an orphan, knew no other way than how Alexander had treated him. I felt deeply sorry for Isobel who he strings along out of convenience and thoughtlessness.

Celia’s experience would be another thread. Despite her father, she has a sense of being ethical and retains her humanity from living through her mother’s disappointment and death.

Isobel describes Celia’s situation as she reads the cards, “It’s as if there is love and loss at the same time, together in a kind of beautiful pain.” (p. 205)

Other secondary threads include Chandresh LeFevre, the man who believes he is the originator of the Night Circus, the clockmaker, Herr Friedrick Thiessen, the instigator of the revéurs and Bailey, a young patron who loves the Circus more than anything else. Other intriguing characters include Poppet and Widget (the twins), Tsukiko the contortionist, the designers of the circus and the instructors of magic. Bailey is the most ordinary of characters, and perhaps because he is so ordinary is the very reason for his role in saving the circus.

Bailey’s grandmother’s advice was, “Follow you dreams, Bailey,” she says. “Be they Harvard or something else entirely. No matter what that father of yours says, or how loudly he might say it. He forgets that he was someone’s dream once, himself.” (p. 112)

This quote is Bailey talking about Poppet, and just makes me laugh.

“She turns her head, Bailey catches her eye, and she smiles at him. Not in the way that one smiles at a random member of the audience when one is in the middle of performing circus tricks with unusually talented kittens but in the way that one smiles when one recognizes someone they have not seen in some time. Bailey can tell the difference, and the fact that she remembers who he is makes him inexplicably and utterly pleased.” (p.252)

The descriptions of the tents and the spectacles are amazing. I felt as though I could feel the texture, temperature, and smell of the circus. I loved the wishing tree, Widget’s tent of bottled stories, the ice tent and the clock at the entrance was enchanting. Many authors leave the reader in a position to have to imagine the setting for themselves, but this novel was thick with descriptions.

This is an unusual and spellbinding book. I loved the quirks and guessing how everything would work out (amazingly she does get all the pieces to fit together). There is also cruelty and unprincipled characters, men who have forgotten what it means to be human. Tsukiko finally reveals to Celia the terrible consequence of becoming the winner of this dual between the magicians. The worst is surviving while the one you love dies.

After considering the many facets of this novel I believe that all of the characters take a secondary role to the circus. The circus itself is the highlight of the entire book. The creative, fanciful, mesmerizing, intricate, living, breathing, dream-caught, ever-changing and eternal Le Cirque des Revés. Perhaps I will start to wear a red scarf too.

As a final item to pique your interest, take note of the illustrations. The stars cast upon a black background and ponder who they belong to and what they might portend.

(As a warning there is one steamy scene that I edited out for my teenager to read.)

5 out of 5 stars

5 star

– the Mother

ps- I just read that the author is coming out with another book! I can hardly wait because this was one of my all-time favorites!

Teen Point of View

I really enjoyed this book. I loved the originality of the idea and the details.

I thought it was hard to read and I had to take breaks to keep from going insane and throwing the book at a wall.

I liked the characters a lot, Tsukiko, Poppet and Celia being my favorite. I didn’t really sympathize with Marco or get attached to him at all. I really liked how beautifully the author had written some of the chapters and enjoyed the read. I think this is a good book to be read by adults or teenagers that can handle hard reading.

4.5 out of 5



– the Teen

Note: Years later, my daughter still talks about this book as one of her favorites. I think she’d give it 5 stars now that she’s older.

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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