Review (and reread): The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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Rating: ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
Date Read: March 3 to 10, 2015
Read Count: 2
Recommended by:
Recommended for: I honestly don’t know

The good news is I don’t hate this book. The bad news though? I still don’t like it. Everything I said after the first read still stands. It’s beautifully written but executed without the depth this story needed (or deserved?). There’s a ton of potential here, TONS, but very little of it is explored in the storytelling. Plot and character development become stagnant and level off half way through the story, and I think that bothers me most of all, that there’s a lack of progress, a lack of tension building up, as the story moves forward. However, there’s a fascinating dreamlike quality to the prose that makes the reading experience quite surreal. So don’t read for story, read for the lovely words that conjure such lovely images in your mind.

Even though I didn’t like this book the first time around, it’s always made me wonder if that was my fault for not putting in enough effort. But now I know. It isn’t because the timing was bad or that there had been too much going on. It’s because this book isn’t for me. We’re too incompatible in too many ways. Now that I have that figured out, I can stop wondering. Even if I’d read it while in a better mood and at another time, I probably wouldn’t have liked it more. And I so wanted to like it.

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.

The writing is lovely.

“I am tired of trying to hold things together that cannot be held. Trying to control what cannot be controlled. I am tired of denying myself what I want for fear of breaking things I cannot fix. They will break no matter what we do.”

The setting is also lovely.

You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Rêves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus.
You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.

[…]

They are enthusiasts, devotees. Addicts. Something about the circus stirs their souls, and they ache for it when it is absent. They seek each other out, these people of such specific like mind. They tell of how they found the circus, how those first few steps were like magic. Like stepping into a fairy tale under a curtain of stars… When they depart, they shake hands and embrace like old friends, even if they have only just met, and as they go their separate ways they feel less alone than they had before.

The vivid descriptive details are very lovely.

Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There’s magic in that. It’s in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy. Do not forget that…there are many kinds of magic, after all.

And cover art is just gorgeous.

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It’s gorgeous on the inside too. I wanted to like it so much for the hardcover.

 

I think this book would have worked better as a collection short stories. Each character could be featured in their own short story with the rest of the characters as supporting cast, and the stories could share one common link that tie all the characters to the Night Circus. That nesting style that worked so well for Cloud Atlas could work for this book as well.

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date read: October 16 to December 12, 2013
Read count: 1

This book is one of the few that works better as an audiobook because it’s got lovely flowing sentences that sound great when spoken aloud, especially by the great Jim Dale. There so many lovely fantastical sensory details that suck you right into the dreamy magical world of Le Cirque des Rêves. The downside, however, is it’s a chore to read on your own, as I found out (more below the spoilers). I started out reading and I really enjoyed the first few chapters, but then the story went on and on for too long without much happening, and so all those lovely fantastical descriptions lost their luster and became grating. I lost full interest somewhere in the middle, right around the time I realized the competition between the two rival magicians was going nowhere and that it wasn’t actually a competition, more like an awkward one-up-man-ship. So I ended up finishing the read via Jim Dale on audio. He’s amazing, so amazing he saved this book for me. Anyone who’s interested in this book should try it on audio first.

Now for the hard part. I’ll try easing into it.

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* * * * spoilers below * * * *

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