Bustle's I'm So Jealous series is dedicated to the books, TV shows, movies, podcasts, and more that super fans are so jealous someone else gets to experience for the first time. In this installment, Sadie Trombetta writes about Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus.
If you were to ask any of my friends what my biggest flaw is, they would all likely say the same thing: She never answers her damn text messages. Modern communication gives me horrible anxiety, social media remains a mystery to me, and like everyone else my age, the idea of actually calling someone on the phone is baffling and borderline terrifying. Thanks to my nearly paralyzing fear of traditional communication, I have to get a little creative to stay in touch with the ones I love. That is why, in 2016, I started a book club with a couple of girlfriends from childhood, to help us reconnect and give us an excuse to hang out IRL. Our first selection: The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern.
I didn't know it at the time, but 2016 would prove to be an extremely challenging year for me — personally, professionally, and, of course, politically. Long before Trump was elected, I found myself flailing in every aspect possible: My long-term relationship appeared to be on the brink of collapse as our professional lives seemed to be moving my partner and I in different directions; my novel-in-progress stalled at a few thousand words, and imposter syndrome kept me from pursuing all kinds of professional writing opportunities; I was drowning in student loan debt, falling behind on bills, and was forced to move back home with my parents for the first time since high school. When my friends suggested The Night Circus for our inaugural book club pick, I was happy to have a distraction from the hot mess of my life I had no idea the book would become so much more than that.
A book that is nearly impossible to categorize, The Night Circus blends the elements of fantasy, romance, and mystery to create a wholly unique reading experience. At its center are two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been groomed since childhood by their somewhat shady mentors to compete in a dark and dangerous magical game only one of them can survive. Their playing field is Le Cirque des Rêves, a breathtaking and mysterious circus famous for its "ethereal enigmas," dark delights, and feats of impossibility. (Magical cloud maze, anybody?)
Of course, the already complicated competition only becomes more intense when Celia and Marco fall hopelessly, desperately in love with one another. With the lives and fates of the entire circus hanging in the balance, the pair must figure out how to save themselves without destroying each other.
To say I was hooked by Morgenstern's genre-bending story would be a serious understatement. From it's very first line — "The circus arrives without warning." — to it's breathtaking conclusion, I was utterly enraptured by The Night Circus. The lives and motivations of the book's characters fascinated me, the circus and it's magical acts dazzled my every sense, and Morgenstern's beautiful writing swept me off my feet. Even now, three years after reading The Night Circus for the first time, I have many of the book's most enchanting lines stuck in my head.
Reading The Night Circus nourished my soul in that special way I sometimes forget only books can. It infused my life with wonder, joy, and imagination. It helped me get in touch with the part of myself that still believes in magic and possibility — that part that is often drowned out by fear, responsibility, practicality, and debilitating self-doubt. In the weeks and months after reading The Night Circus, I was that little bookish girl again, hiding under my covers with a flashlight, notebook, and pencil, dreaming up fantastical worlds all my own.
But what made this novel even more special to me was that I read it while surrounded by the women of my book club. After turning the last page of The Night Circus, a painful chapter of my real life began. Thankfully, it was a chapter I didn't have to face alone.
If you're picking up The Night Circus for the first time: Cancel your weekend plans, because this is the kind of story you're going to want to read in one sitting. Seriously.
If you love it and want more of the same: You're in luck, because Morganstern's long-awaited sophomore novel The Starless Sea hits shelves Nov. 5, 2019. In an statement to Entertainment Weekly, Morganstern explained, “When I started working on my new novel, I thought I was writing a book about books, but as it turns out I was writing a book about stories. Stories and choices and change and also time and fate and video games. It took quite a while to get it all to fit in a single book, even down to the bees.”
And if this book converts you into a member of the Cult of Erin: Revel in the fact that you can still believe in magic as an adult.