The Night Circus [Book Review]

Date Wed, June 21 2017

In The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern tells the tale of a mysterious and magical circus that shows up without warning in various towns. It opens only at night, attracting a curious sort of crowd, both as circus-goers and performers. Within the fences are glorious tents, all in red, white and black, and within those tents are contained exhibits and performances that are beyond the scope of imagination to most characters who visit the circus in the book — and perhaps to many readers as well.

The Night Circus contains page after page of description of fantastic exhibit and magical show. It’s quite the treat for the mind’s eyes, but it’s also the bulk of the pages (of which there are many). It makes the book feel slow and, at times, quite tedious. There weren’t really any moments while I had put down my Kindle that I found myself with an insatiable desired to pick it back up.

Interspersed between descriptions of the circus itself is a plot, but the reader is never quite sure who is the main character or even if there is supposed to be one. I found that I was rather unsympathetic to the plethora of characters that lived within these pages — and there were no shortage of characters to follow, relationships to understand and lives to unravel.

Perhaps that last point is where all my frustration with The Night Circus rests. Throughout much of the book two characters, Clare and Marco, are set against one another by their masters, mentors and – in one case – father. But the characters struggle to understand the rules, the playing field and the outcome of that competition. Thus, the reader also fails to understand the game and, perhaps, the book that surrounds it and seems hinged on it.

I’ve read reviews that describe this as a book about a circus rather than one about people or a story. And I could give you that. So much of the book is spent describing the exhibits, and they’re certainly creative. It’s not difficult to envision them or wish they were real so that I could visit my very own night circus. But I am almost left with the feeling that this idea would work better in a visual format than it does as words on a page. There’s just not enough story here to support The Night Circus being a novel, let alone one that’s just so, well, long.

With that said, if you’re not as plot or character oriented, if you like the slow burn, if you want to be captivated by the imagery painted by the words, then you might enjoy The Night Circus more than i did.

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