Books by ballot – Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus

booksBeing a) often pushed for time, and b) chronically indecisive, I have inaugurated a new method of choosing one of my next reads: once a week I’ll set up a poll over on my Twitter account (@moyle3) and ask the good folk of Twitterland to help me decide which one I should prioritise. It may sometimes be a choice of two, three, or many. I’m certainly not the only blogger to do this (check out Rachel’s lists over at but for this first poll (and I’ll confess to the fact that I had just found the ‘poll’ button and was quite excited by the possibilities…) my need to choose this time was made more pressing by the fact my selection was from an amazing stash of novels in our holiday cottage. I only had two full days of holiday left. Time was against me.

I whittled it down to three possibilities – three novels which have been on my radar for sometime: Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth (have loved most of his), Ben Elton’s Time and Time Again (really must try him soon), and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus (aware of the rave reviews and it is a beautiful cover).

I’m really, really glad that it was Morgentern’s novel which was the unanimous winner. I’m so glad I got to spend the last two days of my holiday with this one. For the few people left out there who still haven’t read this book – get on it asap.

‘The Circus arrives without warning. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Against the grey sky the towering tents are striped black and white. A sign hanging upon iron gates reads:

Opens at Nightfall

Closes at Dawn’


Set in fin-de-siècle London, New York, Berlin, and so on – for this is a global treat – the Night Circus appears overnight, its glamorous black and white tents home to illusionists,night circus trapeze artists, contortionists of the highest order. Morgenstern’s writing is sumptuous in its sheer use of colour and detail, and she provides us with a rich menagerie of characters, many of whom are talented manipulators of an audience’s experience. Morgenstern herself performs sleights of hands throughout as we follow Celia and Marco, two opponents locked in an undefined ‘challenge’ laid down by dark and sinister father-figures. The ‘rules’, as far as the protagonists can make out, are far more complex than any game of chess, and many lives will be affected by the outcome. There are acts of breath-taking cruelty, and moments of humour and warmth that balance out this most remarkable of novels. I’m not sure I’ve ever read anything with such imaginative scope.

I’d love to know if you’ve read this novel – or either of the other two – and what you thought!






5 thoughts on “Books by ballot – Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus

  1. Pingback: Robert Dinsdale’s The Toy Makers #review | Books and Wine Gums

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