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This review is from: The Night Circus (Hardcover)
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To say I had conflicting thoughts on this book would be an understatement. To make it a bit easier to express what I thought of it, I think it would be easier to divide my star rating into two; for the first half of the book, I give it two stars. For the latter half, I give it four.
I began reading this with very high expectations, which probably contributed to the major disappointment I felt fifty to one hundred pages in. From the glowing reviews, one even comparing it to Harry Potter, I was expecting to be riveted. And...I wasn't. The first few chapters were promising. Breathtaking descriptions and imagery, and mysterious characters, brief scenes with magical undertones, and an intriguing set-up to the conflict had me thinking the following chapters would be fast-paced. Not so.
This book dragged painfully in the middle, piling details and uninteresting characters on top of each other until I was literally counting down the pages. This is not to say that the fantastic imagery and description stopped; it didn't. Morgenstern's figurative language and imagery are top-notch and enchanting, fitting of the visually captivating circus she creates.
My main problem with the narrative were the characters. Good god, the characters. The protagonists, Celia and Marco, were as flat as cardboard. I didn't understand either of them, despite the surplus pages featuring their boring interactions. Maybe this is being nitpicky, but it bothers me when characters laugh too much in dialogue. "Celia laughs" seemed to be the main reaction of our heroine, in every scene with dialogue. For one, it's tedious after a while. For another, it's almost like the author is pointing out the wittiness of her own dialogue. Also, Marco and Celia were just too...pretentious and self-important. Celia transformed from a quiet, abused child who watched her mother die to a radiant, confident woman possessing both beauty and social graces, who spends more time showing off her dresses than I cared to read about. And Marco was just pompous.
As for the supporting characters, almost everyone is just too cryptic. Tsukiko smokes a lot and smiles, but who is she? No idea. Same with Prospero and the grey-suited man. We're given too many characters with all the answers, who don't really reveal anything, despite having excessive page space to do so.
Some of the characters I did find interesting, although they still could have used a bit more fleshing out, were Poppet and Widget. I almost wished the book had been written entirely about them, because their sibling relationship was much more interesting than any other character dynamic. Bailey's perspective, at first out of place, really grew on me as the story continued.
Now for the ending. (Maybe spoiler-ish?) I liked it. I thought it was appropriate for these characters, and I was especially happy with Poppet and Widget's roles. Bailey, too, I guess, although he was kind of just convenient. I didn't really understand the whole "it's all about timing" bit. I loved the ship made of books scene--definitely my favorite Celia/Marco interaction, if for the setting, not the characters.
I may be being overly critical of the two main characters. Mostly I grew frustrated with the absurd amount of useless chapters--this book could have easily been cut down by one hundred pages, maybe more. Although I was expecting more than I got from this book, but that does not diminish the quality of the imagery. I liked the imagination of the different tents, although the second-person point-of-view felt a bit too intrusive at points. Using "you" should really be more for detached observation, in my opinion, not specific actions and choices, because obviously not everyone reacts the same.
Before I get too nit-picky, I think I'm comfortable with rating this three stars. "It's OK" fits what I felt about this book perfectly. My early frustration was mostly appeased by the ending, and I'm glad it left off on a good note. I probably won't be picking up anything by this author again, especially if it's of comparable length, but I may just go see the movie if it has the book ship scene.
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Showing 1-10 of 64 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 19, 2011 2:29:37 PM PDT
Avid Reader says:
Wow! That is exactly how I felt about the novel! Flat characters, drags in the middle, but still, the novel is very well written and captivating. What I think bothered me the most were 3 things: 1) The second person inserts throughout the novel. 2) I still have no idea why Celia fell in love with Marco, and 3) They never reveal certain answers like how Prospero and the Grey Suited Man lived so long, and there are others, though I don't want to ruin the story for anyone. A good book, better than I've read in quite some time, and one that I'd recommend for people who liked The Historian and The Thirteenth Tale...however, "The Next Harry Potter" it is not.
Posted on Sep 23, 2011 12:18:17 PM PDT
Master Cineaster says:
Very helpful review.
Posted on Sep 24, 2011 1:44:42 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Sep 24, 2011 2:32:58 PM PDT
I definitely agree--the second-person inserts felt like they fractured the novel, when there were already too many disjointed elements. However, although some of the writing was absolutely gorgeous, I don't think I can say that it's one of the better books I've read lately.
Posted on Sep 26, 2011 8:02:45 AM PDT
Katherine Yuhas says:
I thought I was alone in not being completely captivated by this book. You have pinpointed exactly what I thought was wrong with this novel. The two main characters are not interesting - Bailey and the twins were the only characters whose stories interested me. And I agree with you that the book is far too long. The creation of a world is very fun and creative, but the story that goes along with the setting isn't much.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 26, 2011 8:10:33 AM PDT
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Posted on Sep 26, 2011 2:29:30 PM PDT
I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I think you're a little hard on the author considering it's her first novel. I found it quite poetic and magical.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 27, 2011 5:54:28 AM PDT
I'm so glad to see that other people felt the same way, and I completely agree--creating a beautiful setting is important, but it definitely isn't everything.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 27, 2011 6:04:47 AM PDT
I agree with "poetic" completely. As I said in my review, the language in the book was spectacular in some places. However, I can see a movie or read a book with the most imaginative, fantastical backdrop ever created, but if the characters aren't there, then for me, it doesn't make for a good story.
So despite the heightened language, despite the magic (which I actually didn't find that "magical", unfortunately, due to lack of limitations and rules), I couldn't connect with the characters, and that is what made this book such a disappointment. To be clear, though, I'm not really critiquing the author here so much as a story, and my personal experience of it no less; I'd rather be honest and share what I thought of it than shrug off the parts that bothered me since it's a debut novel. Besides, with all the glowing reviews, I'm sure the author isn't lacking for praise.
In reply to an earlier post on Sep 27, 2011 6:08:25 AM PDT
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