Le Cirque des Rêves Is Wonderful, But the Best Tour Guide Might Be Silence — Harrison’s Thoughts on The Night Circus & New Ways of Reading #questusreviewus

“The circus arrives without warning.” As the exact same sentence used to unfold the entire story at Le Cirque des Rêves brings The Night Circus to an end, it is the beginning of Widget’s story and it seems that everything has just begun. Perhaps it gave me that feeling in the same way circuses amaze their audience. Like Erin Morgenstern said, the word “circus” is derived from “the Greek kirkos meaning circle, or ring.” The end of a circle is its beginning and the end of a show marks the start of the next. The end of Celia and Marco’s story brings the circus to a new start under Bailey, Poppet, and Widget, and the end of The Night Circus took my mind back to the moment I opened this book on Audible…

As a fantasy novel, The Night Circus intrigues readers with its supernatural world where afterlife exists, the past can be read, and the future can be glimpsed. Erin Morgenstern condensed a plot spanning exactly thirty years, yet under clever planning, almost every scene is detailed and enjoyable to read. Every part in the book starts with a quote by Friedrick Thiessen, who is ideal to give the introduction as a talented clockmaker and a leading rêveur. Also, the story is told with a discontinuous timeline from different perspectives. Although most of the story is told from a third person perspective, the beginning and ending are told from a second person perspective, pulling readers into the story. Upon hearing “you are amongst them (spectators)” at the start of the book, I seemed to be experiencing the story myself, standing on the black and white ground of the circus and admiring the towering tents. The discontinuous timeline facilitates storytelling and makes the book more interesting, allowing readers to meet Bailey in the first part and experience the circus from both the inside (with Celia) and the outside (with Bailey).

While The Night Circus is a fantasy novel, it is not an aimless book solely for the sake of telling a fantasy. It has some great themes. The Night Circus elaborates on time and the unknown. Can we prevent the future if we can see it with Poppet’s superpower? But even the fortune-teller at Le Cirque des Rêves will tell you that “the most difficult thing to read is time” and “the future is never set in stone.” What will people do if details of an awaiting challenge is an enigma? The Night Circus also delves into the power of love. What do people choose between love and self-interest? Can love transcend life and death? Or is it “fickle and fleeting” according to Tsukiko? Last but not least, The Night Circus explores the concept of binding and competition. Is there always a “winner” and a “loser” in a competition? Are competitions a good measure of capability? Or is it like what Hector said, competitions are “a test of strength?”

The Night Circus is an excellent book to be turned into an audiobook. Listening to the beautiful language is a pleasure: the entire book flows smoothly and a sprinkle of french words add on to the mystery. Imagery used throughout the book brings sights, smells, and sounds to listeners, and Jim Dale’s voice acting brought the characters to life. As a visual learner, I actually found listening and reading at the same time to be efficient. Listening forced me to focus while reading made me pay attention to every word and appreciate the language. Having an ebook allowed me to highlight noteworthy sentences and notice more details, like three mentions that Marco and Mr. AH “have no shadow.”

However, is audiobook the best format for The Night Circus?

If we think about the evolution of books in recent years, a lot of things have changed. The invention of ebooks changed reading by making paper optional, and audiobooks take it to the next level by making eyes optional. We have turned the location of reading from libraries to casual places like gyms and cars, the goal of reading from self-enrichment to entertainment and utilitarian reasons, and the norm of reading from obsessive reading to the increasingly often fragmented reading.

It reminds me of a story: a group of adventurers went to a cave. They lit up candles and found a flock of gorgeous butterflies. Adventurers retreated. The next time they came to the cave, butterflies had already flown to the depth of the cave… Audiobooks might be the candles, and words are those butterflies. While audiobooks allow us to read easier like the candles allowed the adventurers to see the butterflies, the beauty of words sometimes lie in their silent form. Don’t let the candlelight disturb the peace of those tiny creatures in the cave. And we probably don’t want audiobooks to take away our endless imaginations while reading books word by word and the unique smell that each book possesses.

I have to admit that the audiobook version of The Night Circus is wonderful, and it is good that we have audiobooks as alternatives to traditional reading. But I might prefer to read the book in a traditional way to feel the joy it brings us when we “take down a book and slowly read” in William Butler Yeats’ poem When You Are Old. Let us allow Erin Morgenstern’s words take us to the Le Cirque des Rêves silently, through the series of tents and under the caramel smell, one tent at a time.