Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus (2011)

Only third post this month and a re-post again. The first one had been planned for some time, to start the series and encourage our new readers to reach deeper into Re-E’s archives πŸ˜‰ Today I’m commenting on a book that Ola reviewed over four years ago, and I’ve only just read. Next week – we will, hopefully, finish our post on Captain Marvel, just before the Avengers: Endgame premieres.

The Night Circus was quite popular a few years ago, with awards and positive reviews and a beautiful cover. Reviews vary in tone (but it still has a great 4.04 Goodreads average with 564K ratings and 62K reviews!), cover still looks great.

Why not a counter-review? Because in many ways I agree with Ola. I just like it a great deal more πŸ˜‰

I agree that the book is in many ways an exercise in style. Imagination, attention to detail, well thought-through structure, poetry and elegance – all there. Slow pacing, not much happening, romance too easy, ending perhaps a bit too happy (there were victims along the way, I don’t think that’s too spoilery…) – yes, I agree.

It’s just that I like to occasionally read a book like that. I was in the mood and Morgenstern delivered what I needed – a diamond polished perhaps too much, but shining. The book reminded me a bit of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but it lacked the humour of Clarke’s masterpiece. My score for The Night Circus? 7.5, actually only a point more than it got from Ola πŸ˜‰

And I’ll add one long quote, nothing too original, and definitely naive, but I liked it, and it will also serve as a sample of Morgentern’s style:

β€œStories have changed, my dear boy,” the man in the grey suit says, his voice almost imperceptibly sad. β€œThere are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur, (…) and there is no telling where any of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with his prey.”

(…) β€œBut wouldn’t that mean there were never any simple tales at all?”

Re-enchantment Of The World

the-night-circusOoops, I’m late again! πŸ˜‰ To make up for it, this time I will write a shorter review than usual ;). The Night Circus is a debut novel of Erin Morgenstern – and her only book to date. This novel won Locus Award in 2012 and acclaim of many critics and readers alike. And left me with a feeling of pointlessness of it all.

The book starts with a description of a circus. Or, rather, of THE circus, the ultimate circus there could ever been. Le Cirque des RΓͺves opens only at night. It is black and white, it consists of multiple tents and booths arrayed in a series of circles connected by winding alleys. It is circular, looping and continuous, and feeding on itself. A place of innumerable wonders, constant surprises, awe-inspiring performances – and a few mysteries. It shows up unheralded, it disappears unannounced – but when it’s…

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27 thoughts on “Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus (2011)

    1. elmediat

      The biggest problem with placing this book’s style & tone is most comparisons suggest too strong of a similarity. Sets up expectations that are not met.

      Some of the marketing tried to cover the Twilight & Harry Potter demographic. It is not like either of these. I wouldn’t place it with Strange & Norrel either. To me, it fits in a nebulous category that reminds me most of Neil Gaiman’s style of language & tone of narrative. There are elements/a feel of Ray Bradbury, Roger Zelazny, Jack Vance, Lord Dunsany, and Andre Norton.

      It is a first novel, and it has some weaknesses in pacing, but it was not a great hindrance in reading. Her next novel is due in November.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. piotrek

        Yes, if that’s how the book was marketed I can see many disappointed readers.

        Gaiman is much better at invoking my emotions, so I hadn’t thought of him, Zelazny, that’s an interesting idea, there definitely might be something πŸ™‚

        Also, since Twilight was mentioned, I just have to share its short description from the latest John Oliver: ‘story about a dog-man falling in love with a baby’ πŸ™‚

        Liked by 2 people

        1. elmediat

          Based on the description of her forthcoming book, I believe she has been aiming at an evocative faerie -fantasy magic realism tone. I suspect that her publisher-editors wanted more fantasy romance in the first book. In Night Circus, it was almost more about how the “romance” impacted others, shaping their lives & the circus.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree; the writing style was very stylish πŸ˜‰ The plot was cliched and, frankly, rather boring. I read it a long time ago and this is what I mostly remember πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I was tempted by this but have since removed it from my TBR due to not feeling as enthusiastic.

    I thought Strange and Norrel was the most boring book I have listened to (audio) … nothing seemed to happen. Is this at least more exciting?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nooo, it’s totally unexciting! I was bored to tears by the lengthy descriptions of clothing, food and other stuff πŸ˜‰ Piotrek here was feeling much more generous πŸ˜›

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hmmm, yeah, The Night Circus … I loved this when I read it way back when. Maybe it’s due a reread – my reading tastes have changed a great deal in recent years and I’d be interested to know if I still love it as much as I did. All I really remember now is being enchanted by the idea of the Night Circus itself … πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was probably the closest thing to romance that I ever read and I actually quite enjoyed the magical ride that it offered its fans. I loved the imagination in it and how the ending went full-circle closed things off quite perfectly. Pretty cool to get both of your point of views on it!

    Liked by 2 people

        1. Mine are no so high; in fact I’m not sure I’ll read it at all, The Night Circus was much too sugary for my tastes even despite the fact that I really enjoyed Morgenstern’s imagination and writing skill πŸ˜‰

          Liked by 2 people

    1. I felt rather unforgiving πŸ˜‰ There is something in certain books that makes me feel that the books in question are just too polished – that any life they possessed was smothered in the act of perfecting them. This is one of those books, and to me it feels like something you can put on your mantelpiece to look at it (pretty!) but it won’t move you or make you think.


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