The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
Morgenstern has written us a dish of dark chocolate mousse: pure fluff, but of a very smooth, rich, and luxurious quality. The plot, a basic rivalry/love affair between two magicians’ apprentices, is just a flimsy clothes horse upon which the author drapes her imagination. The whole novel is a sensory massage, indulgent and whimsical, a daydream in print.
The basic conceit is this: The Night Circus pops up unannounced all over the world, and opens its doors at night. Visitors fall in love and spend the rest of their lives chasing it down. This is because its attractions are literally magical. Morgenstern slathers on all the captivating notions she can conjure, which turns out to be quite a lot. The food is otherworldly, the costumes dazzling. Naturally, the characters are also very romantically painted, a loosely tethered troupe of brilliant, glamorous, dramatic, mysterious, well-dressed, clever inventors that get together in ornate, secluded salons to build intricate puzzles and feast daintily. And so on.
Ignore the plot – it’s not that well-built. Don’t ask for details on how the magic works. Instead, dive into this novel the way you would a book of photography, or an immersive museum exhibit. It’s escapist, it’s delicious, and you’ll have your fill of nice things to look at.
In fact, this book was so much fun that some of my friends threw a party for it! Some background: in the novel, the circus is decorated mostly in black and white. Die-hard fans of the circus always wear black, with a red accent, to identify themselves to fellow circus-stalkers who may be present. Therefore the theme of the party was black and white. And we took it pretty seriously.
With my friends, a party is usually just an excuse to cook and eat. We challenged ourselves to create an entirely black and white menu, and, although it verged into grayscale, I really think we did a good job. The lineup:
House-made Bread and Cheese
black rye | Italian black truffle cheese | gouda
Snow White Slaw
fennel, apple, daikon, kohlrabi | lemon vinaigrette
dashi-poached chicken | enoki & shimeji mushrooms | stewed hijiki
White Chicken Chili
cannellini beans | cumin and warm spices
Wild Rice Pilaf
roasted cauliflower | feta, scallion, kalamata olives | Greek vinaigrette
blackberries, blueberries, dragonfruit
Petite White Cakes
whipped ganache | cream cheese frosting | raspberry surprise
graham cracker crust
cream cheese and brownie truffle | almond ears | licorice tail
chocolate wafer | peppermint cream
salty-sweet popcorn | Junior Mints | Peppermint patties
Two of my friends designed gorgeous black and white decor! They made classy invitations by hand, a wishing tree (from the book) by hanging LED tea lights from branches, and black and white paper fortune cookies with mystical fates inside.
Best of all, they created a circus tent out of black and white streamers affixed to the ceiling and walls. (Unfortunately, the tent proved very difficult to photograph, but trust me, it rocked.)
Have you ever thrown a book-inspired party? How did it go?