Friday, June 17, 2016

Review: The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism
Publisher: Doubleday
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I've literally had a copy of The Night Circus sitting on my shelves for almost three years and I didn't read it until last month. I remember buying it when like three people recommended it to me within a really short timespan, and I figured I'd see what was up, but I just never got around to reading it? Lame. (Me, not the book)

There was a Lot more to this book than I was expecting.

First, the writing. The actual words on the page, ignoring plot or character or any of that (for now). It was remarkable. No matter what form the words took -- a second-person exploration into the circus tents, a POV shift to a character who seems unimportant, a description of an illusion -- they were so beautifully crafted. I could give 5 stars to just the diction and the writing. Sometimes it's long descriptions, haunting and elegant, sometimes it's the chilling quality of the phrases being used to describe characters and their actions. I could drink the words up and keep drinking and keep drinking and keep drinking. The words and detail provide this aura and atmosphere to nestle the rest of the book in.

Moving on, the back cover is an inaccurate summation of the book. It isn't entirely wrong in the same way my brother thinks he's not wrong when he says he watched all of One Tree Hill because "it's about basketball" even though they stop mentioning it after one season. The back references the actual Night Circus and a deadly competition between two magical young adults who screw up the rules by falling in love.

Now, the book is very much about the Night Circus -- a circus that arrives unannounced, leaves unannounced, and is much different from an average three-ring circus, decorated in all blacks and whites and greys, with different tents and tunnels, a maze of an attraction with a little magical help to aid in its enchantment. And yes, it features Celia and Marco, who have been raised with the notion of some all-important challenge that they would get the details of when the time came, but it doesn't paint this narrative as the heart-stopping forefront of the novel. I actually was cool with the amount they were featured but I wish their competition had been more high stakes or unpredictable or threatening. Not for the sake of adding action but because it was a really cool concept and I think it could have been delivered on with a little more flair, especially since I've seen how well Erin Morgenstern can write the types of scenes that would make it so. And the love is not quite a deep, passionate, seductive, dangerous love. In fact, if you're looking for a book with a strong romance aspect, this isn't it. The love is quietly explored, background noise that occasionally becomes loud enough to look at, then quiets down again.

So if the book isn't about their competition and it isn't about their love, what is it about, really? A lot. Told by an omniscient third person narrator, we follow quite a few points of view; I didn't count but definitely more than 10. At first it's not apparent why we keep going back to each person. We'll meet a few kids and think they serve only to describe the circus, and then a few chapters later, here they are again talking about farming, and then further into the book you remember the girl being described is definitely the one who met the farm kid, and you aren't sure what you're piecing together, only that something seems to be happening. Also, the book jumps around with the years and locations quite a bit. It stays within the late 1800's (dips into 1901 I think a little) but doesn't tell the story in order. Sometimes, this is confusing, (honestly I stopped paying attention to the dates bc I have no grasp on conceptualizing time) but by the end, when everything ties together, the whole story makes sense, each and every point of view is accounted for.

It takes a while to get there though. The pacing of this book is definitely very slow. For me, this was generally okay because it felt like such a unique book and I was so enamored by her writing style that I was drawn in regardless of what was actually happening. For others, this might be a deal breaker. I think the book is trying to shroud itself in an air of mystery and not reveal anything too big about the plot until the very end, which is why it moves so slowly, just threading every story together until it finally becomes a knot. There isn't a lot of action or clear ~here is a conflict let's go resolve it~ and it's definitely a book you need to invest in.

I, personally, am totally glad I finally made the choice to read it because it did not disappoint. From the intriguing characters to the beautiful writing to the way the book just felt like it had its own distinct aura, it was a breathtaking experience.

Side note: I didn't realize until I was pulling up the Goodreads link to put in this review, but apparently Marlon reviewed this like three years ago, so if you want his opinion check it out here.

- Noor

If you could do one kind of illusion, what would it be?
Let us know in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. Great review! I too, am a sucker for pretty writing. Oh, and the part about your brother and OTH cracked me up.