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Customer Review

1,384 of 1,469 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the hype is justified, June 28, 2011
This review is from: The Night Circus (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It's a rare book that can live up to advance buzz of the sort "The Night Circus" has been getting. I had read the author plugs, the publisher's notes, the touting of film deals, and I had wondered what could really be so special about this novel to justify the hoopla.

Within a few pages, I found out. This book is MAGICAL. The publisher's blurb doesn't really do the plot justice. Here's a modified one: There are two illusionists, chosen at a young age to be bound to one another in a contest that will span their lives until one wins. They have been given no rules, other than that they must perform in some way. They have no idea how one wins, or what one must do to win. Their sponsors in the contest create the circus as the arena for their players. One will travel with it, the other will not. Their story is interspersed with the perspectives of several other characters within or affiliated with the circus, all of whom enrich the plot and provide a deeper look at the workings of the circus and those it touches.

I love the structure of this book. Too often a book with split narratives lingers too long on one or another of the characters, to the point that the reader forgets the other tale being told. Not with "The Night Circus". Most chapters are less than 5 pages long. Any character whose story you long to continue will return again soon. There are no boring narratives. Each is carefully constructed to yield more detail or nuance to the contest, the circus, or the sinister dealings of the competition sponsors. There are many two-page intervals designed to lead the reader through a tent or aspect of the carnival as if the reader were a patron on a tour.

The prose is beautiful - not too verbose, not too simplistic. Morgenstern has the rare ability to describe her fantastical imaginings in a way that is easily accessible. Reading "The Night Circus", I felt like I could see the contents of the tents, feel the fluffiness of the cloud maze, smell the caramel wafting in the air, gaze into the pool of tears, smell the scents in the table of jars. The author makes her creation real. She does so so well that I think the film will be a disappointment - no production company could make real the fantastical things Morgenstern makes me picture in my head.

The romance is gentle and slow-burning. There are no bodice-ripper sex scenes, no overwrought proclamations of undying passion. The romance between the two illusionists is a motivator of events, not the event itself. By sparing us the gory details, the author creates a fairy-tale atmosphere for her love story, a theme alluded to by several of the characters throughout the novel. This is a story about stories. Each character is equal parts vague and filled in. The reader never feels as if a character is fully revealed, but each has a magical quality nonetheless...like fairy tale characters. Morgenstern skillfully translates fantastical, fairy tale elements into a world where fairy tales are unexpected, and dull reality has taken hold (the book begins in the late 19th century in post-industrialized England where the population has seen magic disappear in a haze of coal burning factories and speeding locomotives - magic is now whatever we can mechanize in the name of progress). The author incorporates the 'seen it all' attitude of the people into her narrative - the people are mesmerized by a combination of magic and mechanics, illusions designed for their world. And yet the novel never devolves in 'steampunk' silliness. There is an air of timelessness that pervades every description, so that the circus can move from era to era untouched by the specifics of that time.

The novel approaches what could conventionally be called its climax about 40 pages from the end. But Morgenstern has created so many characters, so many different narratives to care about, that the resolution of the illusionists' contest has become simply one of many stories. I was grateful for the remaining 40 pages to tie together the other narratives intertwined with the illusionists' story. This was altogether a beautiful novel, and I was sad to see it end. Like the rÍveurs, I wanted to travel along with the circus for awhile longer.
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Showing 1-10 of 42 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 25, 2011 6:39:09 PM PDT
Tracy says:
my goodness, that was a finely written reveiw!

Posted on Jul 28, 2011 11:42:29 PM PDT
Steven James says:
Excellent review. You feel exactly the way I do about this book :-)

Posted on Aug 9, 2011 7:06:10 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 9, 2011 7:06:43 AM PDT]

Posted on Aug 14, 2011 3:28:09 AM PDT
I can't wait to read this book. Your review was perfect in that it gave me the "feeling" of the story without giving anything away--a marvelous tease. This may be just what "Harry Potter" lovers are looking for. I know I'm suffering from "Harry Potter" withdrawal.

Posted on Aug 18, 2011 10:06:26 PM PDT
Sherry211 says:
Best review, ever! Perhaps you should write? Thank you, for making me want to read this book.

Posted on Aug 19, 2011 2:16:19 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 19, 2011 2:18:52 AM PDT
I'm adding my recommendation to this thread because I'm not a Vine member, but I did get an ARC copy in May and I absolutely loved this book. You wrote a lovely review, so I'm glad to give you a 'helpful' vote and let your post convince people they should read The Night Circus. I've been telling everyone I know who reads even a little that they should check this book out.

I understand, to a point, why this book did not resonate for some people. It would be harsh to say that they seem to lack imagination or need to be grounded by exposition to enjoy a story. I'm not sure there is anything intrinsically wrong with not wanting to drown in sensation, atmosphere and the intangible. In fact, I found the first half of the book an almost uncomfortable read that I had to periodically set aside. Not due to boredom but from a peculiar feeling of discovering something strange and extraordinary and not quite safe.

I guess I must have liked the sensation because it drew me back in, and by the second half I was good and captured by the book's magic. It's been a couple months, and I still feel stunned, wondering what place Erin Morgenstern cultivated her imagination and bemoaning that I could not get there myself.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 23, 2011 9:52:09 PM PDT
Sherry211 says:
I want to read this book, more than anything in this world...right now. Will purchase this book the second I am allowed.

Posted on Aug 24, 2011 12:54:55 PM PDT
M. Kooiman says:
What a wonderful review. You put into words what I was thinking and just not able to describe. Like you, I wanted to follow the circus a bit more and I hope the author is able to come up with a sequel about Poppet and Widget and Bailey.

Posted on Sep 1, 2011 6:39:30 PM PDT
Debra Borod. says:
DEFINITELY ON MY MUST READ LIST.

Posted on Sep 7, 2011 9:52:10 AM PDT
Patricia R. says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]
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