The Night Circus

by Erin Morgensternages: 16+ (shelved in the Adult Fiction section of my library)
First sentence: “The circus arrives without warning.”
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I am inherently suspicious of anything that receives an inordinate amount of buzz. (Which is why I have yet to read The Help.) People have told me it’s just sour grapes; that if I would just catch a book early enough, I wouldn’t have this violently negative reaction to hip and popular books.

But when Corinne said that I should read it, I listened.

I’ll be frank here: there is a plot to this book, but it’s pretty predictable and fairly cliche. In the end, it’s your basic Romeo and Juliet love story. Two magicians from two differing schools of thought pit their students against one another. This time it’s Celia and Marco. They’re never supposed to meet, they’re not supposed to even know who the other is; yet, they find out, and fall in love. Of course there are ramifications, of course there are hazards and heartbreak.

That’s not the point of the book, though.

The point of the book is the atmosphere. It’s a very slow moving book, one that luxuriates in the descriptions of the circus, of clothes, of the food, of the magic. It’s not a spare and poetic book, but rather weighty and opulent: there’s scenes that for plot purposes probably don’t need to be there, but because they add to the atmosphere and mood of the book, fit perfectly. There’s characters wandering in and out of the book that have little to do with the plot, and yet they add to the carnival-esque feeling. It reminded me strongly of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell; the use of magic is unique and traditional at the same time. Morgenstern uses stage magicians as a launching point, musing on the idea of an the illusion actually not being an illusion. And, surprisingly for me: the book is written in the present tense while still flitting back and forth in time. Usually, this drives me batty, but in this book, in this setting, it worked. (I didn’t even notice until I was halfway through. Which says much.)

I do recognize that all this all might be a downer for some people; I’m not expecting to add to the hype for this book. I don’t think it’s the next Harry Potter, or even the next “big thing”. But, in many ways it is worth the hype: it’s a beautiful, descriptive, haunting and gorgeous book.

13 thoughts on “The Night Circus

  1. I have the same issue, but I'll go you one better. I still haven't read Harry Potter, not any of them. Too much hype, and I'm sure they can't live up to seriously inflated expectations


  2. Too funny, Sherry. Though I have to admit, if I hadn't have caught Harry Potter early on, I'd probably be right with you in not reading them. Sometimes things just get *too* big.


  3. Congratulations, Melissa! I think you’re a Versatile Blogger.
    I know not everyone likes getting blog awards so do as you will, just know that your writing is appreciated. If you’ve been previously nominated — Congratulations, again! This has been an opportunity for me to send out a note of appreciation for the writing you do and let you know that I’ve learn from you.
    Thank you.
    Apples with Many Seeds

    PS. Somehow I've missed the buzz about this one. Now I WILL have to check it out.


  4. I have to admit The Help was a book I avoided, too, but I finally read it this year and enjoyed it. This book I planned to read before the hype even started because I enjoy books with a circus setting. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of this book. Yes, there was a romance involved, but for me that was secondary. 🙂


  5. I picked this up the other day, admittedly because of the buzz. It's good to know you approve.

    It's ok to read The Help. As a southern girl about an hour outside of Jackson, MS, I was duty-bound to read it and so very thankful I did. You'll meet people you'll remember for a long time.


  6. i have the same trigger, the more hype the less chance I will get to it; worse if it is popular among the ladies' book club circles–I am awful.

    This one has held my interest though, and I really appreciate your take on it. Yours is one of the most helpful reviews I've read on this book thus far.



  7. I am glad that you liked it! It just showed up on my doorstep one day from some publicist and I hadn't heard one word about it until after I handed it to my sister to take on a trip and she gave it back angry with me for not trying it yet 🙂

    I agree, hype turns me completely off. I'm glad I caught this one pre-hype 🙂


  8. I'm also cautious of the intense hype that comes with some books. It doesn't mean I won't read it but it doesn't mean I will either. I always appreciate an honest review like yours so I can compare.

    I've been curious about this book for a long time and I do plan to read it. I only recently read The Help and I have to admit I couldn't put it down.

    As for Harry Potter, I got the first book from the library after I read a tiny review in a magazine, before anyone had really heard of it. I'm so glad I did because it's the best series I've ever read! I love the writing and creativity but I've enjoyed this kind of story since I was a kid. Every book is not for every person. That's why we are so very lucky to have such a huge variety to chose from! 🙂


  9. I waited to read your review until after I'd finished reading the book and drafting mine. My review won't post until Monday, but I focused on atmosphere in it as well. I really like this book. I didn't expect to – I generally don't end up liking the universally loved sorts of books – but this one was different and it really captured me. The writing and storytelling was fantastic. It definitely made it into my top books of the year.


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