Book Club Recipes
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was an inspiring book for book club! Our lovely hostess, Angela, was amazing. The whimsical food and decor were so much fun! Of course, everyone dressed in the Reveur’s black and white with a splash of red! The food was inspired by the circus concessions and the black and white and red theme. We had caramel corn and chocolate covered popcorn, black and white cookies, brownies with icing, apples with salted caramel dip and the highlight of the night, Heather’s homemade chocolate mice!!! Squeeee!!! She made them with Hershey’s kisses, cherries and almond slivers for ears!
Note to authors, when you write a book, include something unique and fun like chocolate mice in your story so readers can squeal in delight when someone brings them to book club! You can special order them from L. A. Burdick’s Gourmet but I like Heather’s better! I spent way too much time looking at #chocolatemice on Instagram. Click on that link if you have a little time to kill….a lot of time to kill? There are a couple of entertaining mouse fails (really disturbing!) and a hilarious derp mouse with big ol’ crazy eyes! So funny!
There were also delicious pulled pork sandwiches with two kinds of cole slaw, kale and brussels sprouts salad with bacon and pecorino (here’s the recipe), a center ring of brie and french bread, veggies and dip, cookies, guacamole, an herb and cheese baked bread amazement, and sauteed beet noodles with goat cheese and cranberries – for the touch of red!
Our hostess’s ten-year-old son performed magic tricks for us with assistance from Bebe, the dog (though I failed miserably at catching them on video!)
Another of our book club rituals is Quotes! Each person selects a quote (or two) from the book and attaches it to her wine glass. Near the end of our discussion, we read them, and talk about what it means to us or why it was important in the book. I usually prepare them by going to the quotes section for a book on GoodReads.com.
Here are a few quotes from The Night Circus
Wine is bottled poetry, he thinks.”
The past stays on you the way powdered sugar stays on your fingers. Some people can get rid of it but it’s still there, the events and things that pushed you to where you are now.”
What a fun book club discussion!
I got a Book Clubs to Go kit from our Harford County Public Library. It’s a set of ten paperback books and discussion guide in a canvas bag. The library also had it on audiobook apps and a Playaway device. (Here’s my post on free audiobook apps, in case you missed it.) When I returned the Book Clubs To Go bag to the library, the canvas bag had a little wine stain on it. Whoops! Maybe every book club should add a different vintage of wine to give it book club authenticity and flavor!
The Night Circus was a great book for Sweet T’s ladies to talk about. Although I loved it and four others loved it, the feeling wasn’t universal. We have a book club ritual of giving the book thumbs up or thumbs down. The majority of the thumbs were at 3 pm! It made for great book club discussion, though. Sometimes when everyone loves a book, there’s a lot less to talk about. It’s more like, “Oh, I loved it.” “Yes! I loved it, too!” “You want more wine?”
Everyone agreed that the writing was magnificent, Erin Morgenstern captures moments with rich writing and amazing imagery. You feel like you’re there, breathing the air, smelling the scents, living in that world. And what an amazing, wondrous world! Wow! It’s a circus that’s more like cirque de soleil than Ringling Brothers. There are not elephant smells and philosophical animal cruelty questions to ponder. But there are mysteries behind the scenes. Mysteries and wonder and magic!
We talked about all the tents and which one we would most want to visit. I think the Ice Garden and Widget’s scented jars of memory were the most popular. I found the cutest little light up trees at Michael’s to make our own wishing tree!
Erin Morgenstern is a painter and visual artist as well as a writer, that’s why the writing style is so visual. She studied studio art and theater at Smith College in Massachusetts. She wrote the book as part of three NaNoWriMos – National Novel Writing Month in November. NaNoWriMo is an annual writing contest where participants write 50,000 words in a month. Almost all of the 100,000 words written in Morgenstern’s first two years were rewritten. The first drafts didn’t even include Celia. It was more about the descriptions than a plot.
That makes sense to me because the plot does sometimes seem like an afterthought to the confection that is the circus and the characters. Though I found the story of the young enchanters’ challenge fascinating but slower to develop. Some of our group didn’t feel like there was much of a plot at all. But another said the author did a good job of building the characters as pawns in the game
Jen described it was a mix between Romeo and Juliet and X Men’s secret society! We were not sure what genre to classify it as – fantasy? romance? mystery? literary?
I read the book twice, actually, I listened to the audiobook twice. I read it last year and wanted to brush up on the finer details. And quite, frankly, it’s a book that definitely gives you more the second time around (though Elizabeth wouldn’t agree).
My ears were buzzing that night because I listened to the audiobook on the Playaway device with headphones all day long – literally all day long. I went to the grocery store listening to it. I was at work listening to it. I went to the bathroom listening to it. I fixed lunch listening to it. I ate lunch listening to it. Driving home listening to it, with probably, probably, 15 minutes to go, the battery died. OMG!!!
OMG!! If I hadn’t read it already and if I hadn’t read a synopsis online and prepared the questions I would be so mad. Actually I was mad. Fortunately the library was on the way home and I rushed in gasping, “Help me! I’ve got 15 minutes and book club is in 2 hours and it’s dead!” The librarian was such a dear, he said, “That’s why we’re here, to heal the books so don’t worry!” He reached into a drawer and pulled out new batteries (I didn’t realize they ran on AAA’s – der.) So yay Mr. Librarian! And Thank you!
The Night Circus Discussion Questions
I prepared discussion questions from the publisher’s web site, other book groups online, and my own little head. Here are some of my favorite questions and some of our (mostly my) thoughts on them.
- Who are your favorite characters?
- What are your favorite parts of the circus? What tent would you most want to visit?How many tents can you name?
- Marco asserts that Alexander H. is a father figure to him (though his paternal instincts aren’t readily noticeable). In what ways does Alexander provide for Marco and in what ways has he failed him? Hector Bowen IS Celia’s father. What do you think of his fatherly prowess and shortcomings?
- We felt like Alexander was at least up front with Marco. He never misrepresented himself. When Marco asked, “What’s my name. ” He said it doesn’t matter. And at the end, he seemed more fond of Marco and of the circus in general. He felt more human. Hector Bowen was abusive, self-centered, and obsessive, as it showed in his disappearing himself.
- What are the differences between Marco and Celia? Between Marco’s magic and Celia’s magic?
- Celia makes true transformations. Marco creates illusions that exist only in the mind of the beholder. Celia has innate talent where Marco has learned skill. Celia is on the inside of the circus, Marco is outside, in London.
- Listen to this quote and think about how it applies to both the circus and the competition?“Chandresh relishes reactions. Genuine reactions, not mere polite applause. He often values the reactions over the show itself. A show without an audience is nothing, after all. In the response of the audience, that is where the power of performance lives.” Which audience is more valuable: one that is complicit or one that is unknowing?
- Celia emphasizes that keeping the circus controlled is a matter of “balance.” And Marco suggests that the competition is not a chess game, but rather, a balancing of scales. However, both the circus and the competition get disordered at times—leaving both physical and emotional casualties in their wake. Is the circus ever really in “balance,” or is it a pendulum swinging from one extreme to the next?
- What do you think of the competition? Do you think it’s fair that they didn’t know the rules? Being bound to it as children?
- What do you think of Friedrick Thiessen? He says he thinks of himself “not as a writer so much as someone who provides a gateway, a tangential route for readers to the circus.” He is a voice for those unable to attend the circus and suggests that the circus is bigger than itself. What role do the reveurs play in keeping the spirit of the circus alive outside of the confines of the circus tents?
- Is it feasible for the rêveurs to be so obsessed with the circus that they’d define their lives by it? What kinds of groups are there like that? Have you ever been part of a group like that?
- We came up with real-life groups of people who are the same: Trekies, Groupies, Whovians, Rennies, Parrot heads, Deadheads, Cyclists.
- From the outside, the circus is full of enchantments and delights, but behind the scenes, the delicate push and pull of the competition results in some sinister events: i.e. Tara Burgess and Friedrick Thiessen’s deaths. How much is the competition at fault for these losses and how much is it the individual’s doing?
- How do you view the morality of the circus in regards to the performers and developers being unknowing pawns in Celia and Marco’s competition? Do Celia and Marco owe an explanation to their peers about their unwitting involvement? Discuss themes of good and evil. Free will versus being “bound” Why do you think some people, like Mr. Barris, don’t mind being trapped by the circus while it drives others, like Tara Burgess, mad?
- Isobel is a silent, yet integral, partner in both the circus and the competition. She has an ally in Tsukiko, but seemingly no one else, especially not Marco. How much does Marco’s underestimation of Isobel affect the outcome of the competition? Was she good? Bad? A victim? A perpetrator?
- I think she finally understood it in the end. How many young people think they’re in love when they’re not. I certainly did. Or really, they may be in love but it’s more of an infatuation than true lasting commitment. I don’t like to belittle anyone’s feelings.
- Tsukiko is aware of Isobel’s “tempering of the circus” from the outset and when Isobel worries that it is having no effect, Tsukiko suggests: “perhaps it is controlling the chaos within more than the chaos without.” What, and whose, chaos is Tsukiko alluding to here?
- Were you surprised at Tsukiko’s identity?
- What did you think of the ending?
- I really don’t think you can say it was a predictable story.
Want more ideas for your The Night Circus themed book club party?
Check out my Pinterest board and some of my blogger friends.
Check out this beautiful table setting for a midnight dinner party from Home is Where the Boat Is.
I think Delicious Reads always has the most spectacular book club ideas!
Vacuuming in high heels and pearls had some great ideas too!
The Circus Setting
Here’s a list the circus tents and acts in The Night Circus.
The Ticket Booth
The Elaborate Iron Gate: Opens at nightfall. Closes at dawn. Trespassers will be exanguinated.
The Tunnel: Directly beyond the ticket booth and the only public entrance to the circle. A black and white, twisting tunnel with black velvet curtains either end.
The Central Cauldron: contains a white, constantly burning fire. This is also the source of the spell that binds the performers and Marco to the circus and protects them.
Friedrick Thiessen’s Clock
The Hanged Man Acrobatic Display
The Illusionist’s Tent: Celia’s tent
The Wishing Tree
The Fortune Teller: Isobel’s tent
The Labyrinth: Marco and Celia’s collaborative work
The Ice Garden
The Stargazer: A slow roller-coaster allowing visitors to look up at the stars
The Cloud Maze
The Scented Jars: Widget’s tent
The Drawing Room: a tent surrounded by blackboards and with buckets of chalk provided for guests to draw
Creatures of Mist and Paper: an exhibit of animated paper creatures inside a misty tent
The Pool of Tears: a silent pool of water surrounded by black stones, which visitors can toss into the pool.
The Hall of Mirrors: contains small individual mirrors which are not full-length, some of which show reflections of people who are not there, and finishes with a gaslight surrounded by mirrors
The Fire Tent: Includes a fire eater, fire stick twirler, and a fire sculptor who turns fire into shapes.
Freestanding Circus Acts
The Kittens: Poppet and Widget’s performance of somersaulting kittens
The Sword Dancers
The Contortionist: Tsukiko’s performance
The Living Statues: The Empress of the Night, the Black Pirate, the Lovers, the Paramour, and the Snow Queen. The Snow Queen bears an unnamed memorial, actually to Tara Burgess
Cocoa, optionally with spice or cream topping
Popcorn, optionally with caramel or chocolate topping
Cider and eiswein and tea, in the Drinkery tent
“Delicious little cinnamon things”. Cinnamon twists with icing
Chocolate mice with almond ears and licorice tails
Chocolate bats with delicate wings
Edible paper with illustrations matching the flavors
and that was just in the circus, it doesn’t cover the midnight dinners!
You’re still reading!?
WOW!! Thank you! I’m very flattered. I hope you enjoy this book and book club ideas. Did your book club do something interesting? I want to know! Send me an email or connect with me on social media and tell me what you did! Here’s me, with my clipboard, leading the discussion, talking and drinking, drinking and talking. I always seem to be a little tipsy when they take these pictures of me and my big ol’ smile! Happy Reading! Tarah