Rummanah Aasi
  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern has been a popular book at my public library for quite some time. I had planned on reading it when it was listed on the ALA's Alex Award, a resource that I often use when I'm stumped to read for adult fiction. I was excited and curious to read the book after hearing such enthusiastic responses to it. Unfortunately, this book wasn't for me.

Description (from the publisher): The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Cirque des Reves and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway - a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love - a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Review: I have no idea who wrote the above description for The Night Circus, but the book I read had none of the epic selling points. No huge duel, no sweep off your feet romance, and while there were a myriad of characters I wasn't able to tell if they were extraordinary or not because they went in and out of the story at arbitrary times.
  I read The Night Circus for a book club that I recently joined. It was met with plenty of positive reviews except from me. I didn't love it or hate it but was rather confused as to why everyone seemed to get something out of the story which I did not. I couldn't get comfortable with the story nor the characters. It was as if I was looking through a misty window that failed to clear up no matter how much I try to wipe it down while trying to see what was outside.
  After much thought, I think I understand why this book didn't work for me. I really do think your enjoyment of the book depends on what type of learner you are. Why does it matter? Well, The Night Circus is written entirely in third person omnipresent with an occasional interludes of a second person narrative. The book heavily relies on visuals. The book is almost entirely composed of description. While I thought the description is very cinematic and beautifully done, as a reader I felt immediately alienated. You already begin the book knowing that you're an outsider, a spectator of the events that unfold in front of you. You can only watch from a distance but not touch or come any closer. After a few lovely passages, the narrative became contrite, dull, and indulgent. I don't mind great imagery, but I'd rather have imagery to support the novel instead of becoming the novel. The writing style severely impaired my reading ability and I really had to push myself to finish it. I had already spent a few hours reading it, what more could a couple of more do to actually finish it?
   As someone as a visual and auditory learner, none of the characters became three dimensional people to me. I never got a chance to hear their own voices. I knew about them without really getting to know them per se. Sure, I could tell you who they are superficially, but they didn't mean anything to me as a reader. I can also tell you want the games were about, but I thought the whole point of it was long winded and frankly, boring. With the exception of timer periods noted at each chapter which I really didn't understand their significance because we are told virtually nothing about what is happening outside of the circus, there weren't many context clues, to give me much sense of the character's personalities. I felt the book could really have been written at any time period.
  People who I've talked to who didn't like the book often say it's because they don't care for the fantasy genre, but for me it's not the genre that bothers me. Perhaps if I listened to the story instead of reading it, I might have liked it a bit more. I know that the book rights have been bought by Summit Entertainment but there's probably going to be a lot of tweaking with the plot and pacing for the story to have action. In the case of The Night Circus, maybe just maybe the movie might be better for me than the book.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, a small non-explicit sex scene, and disturbing images. Recommended for teens and adults only.

If you like this book try: The Art of Disappearing by Ivy Pochoda, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanne Clarke, Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner
7 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Hmmmm. With all the description and things it sounds like the movie version might have an edge of the book version:) I haven't read this one yet, but I've read a bunch of varying reviews which is always fun. I'm not sure it's the book for me, I don't like feeling alienated, but lovely, honest review as per usual Rummanah!


  2. Hmm...I have read the reviews and seen all the buzz and I have been wanting to read this, but your review makes some valid points. I am a very visual learner, so I am not sure how this will go with me. I broke down and got the audiobook of this one so maybe it will work better listening to it. I don't know....


  3. Rummanah, I remember this one got tons of positive reviews when it came out. I abandoned it after a couple of pages thought because I wasn't being swept away by the story. Your problems with this one sound like what I'd be thinking had I gone further. Perhaps I'll just wait for the movie too :)


  4. danya Says:

    I haven't read this one, but from what you've said I suspect I might have a similar reaction to yours. I can appreciate imagery and beautiful description, but after a while it can get tiring if there's nothing else going on. I'm sorry this one disappointed you but glad to read your thoughts on it!


  5. I have wanted to read this one and seen all the good reviews, but I've thought from what I read that it wasn't for me. I'm a visual learner and I don't know if I'd enjoy this one especially if we are so far removed from the characters. I still want to give it a try because I feel like I should, but I'll check it out of the library. Thanks for the honest review. I won't feel so bad if I don't care for it.

    Heather


  6. Very thoughtful review. Thanks for explaining exactly what didn't work for you. I agree, description can take a story only so far before it becomes dull.

    I've been there too. It's always a bit frustrating to find out that a book everyone loved doesn't work for you, and you are left feeling like the odd one out, thinking you might have missed something. It's happened to me and it always makes me feel disappointed in myself, but your review helped me realize that sometimes, the story just doesn't appeal to your style.


  7. Candace Says:

    So many people have raved to me about how AMAZING this book is but I recently read a review like yours that gave me a better idea of how it is and knowing more about it has me thinking it might not be my thing. A friend loaned me copy so I will be at least giving it a try so we'll see if its my cup of tea. Thanks for such a great review, I think its been very helpful in giving me a better idea of what to expect.


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