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The Night Circus Paperback – July 3, 2012
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Q&A with Author Erin Morgenstern
Q. This is a lovely and unique story. Why a circus? How did this story first come to you—through a character, a plotline, an emotion?
A. The story came as a location created out of desperation. I was working on a different story altogether, one that was becoming progressively more and more boring because nothing was happening. I needed something exciting to happen and I couldn't figure out how to do it with the locations I had so I sent the characters to the circus. That circus was immediately much more interesting and eventually I abandoned that other story and its characters entirely and focused on the circus instead. What eventually became The Night Circus started from exploring that spontaneously-created location, figuring out who created it and who performed in it and what its story was.
Q. What was your inspiration for some of the amazing acts in this circus?
A. Some of them were traditional circus acts or attractions made a bit more unique, like the acrobats performing directly overhead or the carousel that doesn't simply go in circles. The Cloud Maze is a play on a climbing maze I hazily recall from childhood visits to the Boston Children's Museum. Other tents were created based on color, or lack thereof. I had a lot of dark tents and wanted something lighter and white, the Ice Garden developed from that relatively simple starting point.
Q. Do you have a favorite character?
A. It's impossible to pick a true favorite, though Poppet & Widget are very dear to my heart as they're the first of the characters to turn up in my imagination. They're also just plain fun, both individually and as a pair.
Q. What was the most challenging aspect of developing this story?
A. It didn't have a plot for a very long time. Really, my biggest challenge was finding the actual story within all the atmosphere. I had the place and the characters and the feel of the book long before it had a proper story structure to tie everything together. The novel went through a great many revisions before it figured out what it wanted to be, I tried things that didn't work and then things that sort of worked and replaced old ideas with new ones until I got it right.
Q. Is there an emotion that you had to spend a lot of time with that made you uncomfortable?
A. I'm an emotional sort of person in general and I have a vivid imagination, so I feel the whole spectrum of emotion strongly when I write. It's something I'm used to, though, so nothing in particular made me uncomfortable. There is a lot of frustration felt by various characters, which is not the nicest emotion to be spending a lot of time with, but it helps to drive characters to actions which bring different emotions along.
Q. Tell me about your writing life. Do you have any rituals?
A. I binge write. I think it's because I started seriously writing by participating in National Novel Writing Month, an online-based challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I don't have as tight a time limit anymore but I still write in long marathon sessions and then I won't write for a while, I'm not a write-every-day writer. I go back and forth between input phases where I'm reading a lot or trying to get out and explore the world a bit and soak up inspirations and then I'll get back into output mode and write and write and write.
I don't have any particular rituals, I sometimes like to write in longhand when I'm searching for ideas but I do the vast majority by typing, I can't always keep up with my thoughts longhand. I'm not a coffeeshop writer because I feel obliged to order more coffee and then I end up over-caffeinated.
Q. What's the one true thing you learned from your characters in this novel?
A. I think it's something that I knew already but explored more with these characters, that nothing is as simple as black or white, good or evil. There are all those shades of grey and everyone acts from a place that they see as right and true. (Though they are allowed to change their minds.)
“Magical. Enchanting. Spellbinding. Mesmerizing.” —Associated Press
“Erin Morgenstern has created the circus I have always longed for and she has populated it with dueling love-struck magicians, precocious kittens, hyper-elegant displays of beauty and complicated clocks. This is a marvelous book.” —Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife
“Get ready to be won over. . . . Part love story, part fable, and a knockout debut. . . . So sparklingly alive, you’ll swear the pages are breathing in your hands. . . . The Night Circus defies both genres and expectations.” —The Boston Globe
“A riveting debut. The Night Circus pulls you into a world as dark as it is dazzling, fully-realized but still something out of a dream. You will not want to leave it.” —Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife
“The Night Circus is the real deal, the kind of novel that will appeal to romantics, history buff, circus aficionados, mystery fans, and lovers of a good story. . . . Steeped in circus lore, filled with evocative scenes of magic and illusion, enriched by characters as varied as the clockmaker who crafted the circus’s iconic timepiece . . . The Night Circus is worth staying up for.” —Bookreporter
“One of the best books I have ever read.” —Brunonia Barry, author of The Lace Reader
“[A] few pages in . . . and you know you are in the presence of an extraordinary storyteller.” —The Daily Beast
“Echoing the immense pleasure of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Night Circus presents a sprightly version of 19th-century English magic. . . . A love story for adults that feels luxuriously romantic.” —The Washington Post
“Dark and extravagantly imagined.” —People
“Pure pleasure. . . . Erin Morgenstern is a gifted, classic storyteller, a tale-teller, a spinner of the charmed and mesmerizing—I had many other things I was supposed to be doing, but the book kept drawing me back in and I tore through it. You can be certain this riveting debut will create a group of rêveurs all its own.” —Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
“[Morgenstern] employs her supple prose to conjure up a series of wonders: A maze made of clouds, a ship of books floating on a sea of ink, a tent that seems to contain a vast desert.” —Salon
“Reading this novel is like having a marvelous dream, in which you are asleep enough to believe everything that is happening, but awake enough to relish the experience and understand that it is magical.” —Newsday
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It felt empty, like a made-for-TV movie. Absolutely no depth or meaningful character development.
The writing style was terrible. It seemed like it was written by a prodigious child just learning about descriptive language and trying too hard to use their vocabulary words. I can't believe an adult has gotten so much praise for this.
The suspense is not suspenseful. Even a casual reader should have no problem seeing things before they happen. That's not inherently a bad thing. I read books all the time that are not suspenseful, but your enjoyment of this particular story will almost certainly be determined by how suspenseful you find it because it was obviously written in a way to keep you glued to the page. It just fails miserably.
I might have liked this story when I was a kid or pre-teen but I'm genuinely astounded that so many adults are fans of this book.
I wrote an edit a couple of days ago defending myself against the commenters, but I deleted it and will just say this: If you haven't read the book, read the comments on this review and see the kind of arrogant, rude, presumptuous people who are fans of this novel (with the exception of Dan S. Tong, who was civil). They seem to think that's a good way to present themselves to the world and promote this book which they love. One person even "perused" my profile and assumed I'm uncultured, ignorant, and not well-read because I don't review every single book I read. If that's the crowd you relate to, by all means, buy this book. I, however, am glad I am not part of that crowd.
I wrote an honest review from my perspective. If you disagree, that's fine. Write a positive review and leave it at that.
The Night Circus is enchanting and mysterious. Prepare yourself for a magical story of intrigue and whimsy. Erin Morgenstern will make you feel like you are a part of the circus. Welcome to Le Cirque des Rêves.
“Trespasser Will Be Exsanguinated.” (Morgenstern, 51).
The Plot: The Night Circus begins in 1873 as Prospero the Enchanter learns that he has a daughter to be left in his care; a daughter with a special magical ability. It is this ability that brings about a mysterious meeting and the beginning of a game. As the years go by, Prospero meticulously trains his daughter Celia in the art of illusion, while the man in the grey suit, from the mysterious meeting, trains his student Marco. Both are bound together to play an unknown game with unknown rules until a winner is judged. The Night Circus becomes the arena for this game, and the moves made by Celia and Marco affect everyone involved in the circus. As the years go by, the two begin to fall in love, finding it more difficult to keep playing the game. A choice has to be made, to finish the game at all costs, or to give in to love and let the circus end.
Let me just start out by saying that The Night Circus is definitely one that you have to pay attention to the chapter titles and timelines. With that being said, I LOVED this book. I really took my time reading it and soaking it all in and I was astounded by the immense imagery and story building found in this book! Every single piece of information, and person you meet, has some sort of effect on, or part to play in, the circus. There are so many parts to the whole, and even going backward and forward in time with the chapters helps you to understand what is going on within the circus and the game that Celia and Marco are bound to. Between some of the chapters you can also find pieces of a 2nd person point of view story line that makes you FEEL like you are walking through The Night Circus! The plot, the circus detail, and the characters are amazingly written in this one!
The first character we are introduced to is Prospero, or Hector Bowen. He is ultimately the reason behind the circus and the plot because of his choice to start the game with his daughter Celia. Though he is an integral part of the story, I found him greedy and cruel and felt that he cared more about the game and it’s outcome then he did his own daughter.
In the beginning of the story we are also introduced to Mr. A. H. in the grey suit. He is also an integral part of the story, as he is the mentor of Marco, Celia’s opponent. Mr. A. H. is mysterious, quiet, and quite possibly a murderer.
Our main character, Celia is definitely a favorite character of mine. She is strong, beautiful, and talented in her abilities. She also captures my heart because she is a major bookworm, and holds very high morals. It is no wonder that Marco falls in love with her!
Celia’s opponent Marco is a man of mystery. He was taken from an orphanage by Mr. A. H., so his background and origin are unknown. In his first encounter with Celia, he seems mildly intimidated and nervous. He becomes very restless in his training, and has slightly devious aspects in his game moves, but he plays the role of a co-main character well.
Though we are introduced to many other characters, with them all being integral parts of the story and the circus, we have one other main character to consider. Bailey is introduced to us further in the story, and further in the future, and starts off as a circus spectator. He begins to build a relationship with the twins, Poppet and Widget (whom were born in the circus on opening night, thus being endowed with magical abilities), and in time, becomes a very important piece to the story. It is Bailey’s childish innocence and ability to dream that ties things together and ultimately offers a resolution to the game.
“When you were five years old you turned a laundry tub into a pirate ship and launched an attack against my hydrangeas in my garden.” (Morgenstern, 87).
I recommend reading this one slowly so you can take it all in. You will truly feel like part of the circus. Pay close attention to the dates in front of the chapters and let yourself be immersed into the imagery of The Night Circus.
“You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Rêves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus.: (Morgenstern, 387).
If you like Harry Potter, you'll probably like this, though it is very different.
If you, like me, adore this book and are looking for something else to read, go try Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, and it's sequel Court Duel.
If you want another wonderful way to experience this book: listen to the audiobook. It's read by Jim Dale, and it is magic.
Top international reviews
This is not a fantasy novel. This creates its own genre. I'm 40 and have been devouring books for as long as I can remember. I get the sense that Erin Morgenstern had a similar reading experience. She writes scenes you can smell, scenes you feel the temperature of. The desperation, the hope, the wonderment and the confusion.
What a marvellous web you weave Erin Morgenstern. I will buy everything you ever write based on this stunning book and the utterly marvellous Flax Golden Tales. My favourite being the obsolete 'No Swimming' sign. I very often say that there is a flax golden tale for every emotion.
You wordsmith, you! Thank you for finding the words for things I have felt since 1984.
Long live the dreamers xxx
The night circus is not only a beautiful concept, but moreover a a portal into deeply felt emotional ties both on page and reflected in this world.
My empathy for the characters in this book enabled me interesting perspectives for my own experiences. I am very grateful to the author.
🌼The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. .
🌼Genre : Fantasy. .
Q. Did the story have a good beginning?
A. Yes indeed. It was all dark and mysterious.
Q. Was there a lot of action?
A. Yes a lot of it. Magic all over the story.
Q. What was the most exciting moment in the book?
A. When Marco took Celia on a tour of chandresh's house.
Q. What did you think was the most important point or climax of the book?
A. Celia and Marco unhooking the bond.
Q. Did you read the book to the end? Why?
A. Yes. You just can't put it down.
Q. Were you happy with the ending?
A. No. Not at all. I felt as if most of the ending was left upto the reader's imagination abd wanted so much more to happen. All through the book I was expecting a duel but was kinda a talent show. 😞
Q. When and where is your novel set?
A. If there was a main setting that wasn't the circus, it would be London, where the book starts, and where much happens, like Chandresh's Midnight Dinners.
Q. Were the descriptions good?
A. Oh. They were mesmerizing. Totally magical. .
Q. Pick up the main character in the novel you studied.
A. Celia, Marco, Alexander, Hector Bowen, Bailey, Poppet, Widget.
Q. Did you like them? Why and why not?
A. Celia was my most favorite and Marco was my least favorite after what he did to Isobel. But I wanted to so much of the relationship between each of characters and their development.
Q. If you had to say what the novel was about in one sentence how would you describe it?
A. A magical story of two people bonded to each other since childhood.
Q. Did you find this book easy to read?
A. Parts of it wasn't easy to comprehend as it's a fantasy.
Q. Pick out your favorite description.
A. Life takes us to unexpected places sometimes. The future is never set in stone, remember that.
Q. Who would you recommend this book to?
A. Recommending this to all Harry Potter fans (not that it's equivalent to it but still) and to those who want to start reading fantasy.
It took me till about three quarters of the way through to work out what was niggling at me about the book - no emotions are described in relation to any of the characters. They're not described as 'sad', 'frightened' or 'jealous'. We're told what they do but not what they feel. A bit weird. Does the author write without empathy for her characters on purpose?
I enjoyed the book, despite how the above might sound. The author's imagination and vivid descriptions of the scenes are luscious, straight out of dreams and fantasies. I'd recommend it for this despite the niggles mentioned above.
I had heard conflicting remarks on this book but the premise sounded interesting so I gave it a go.
I have to say that I did not love it and did not even particularly like it to become with as there is so much jumping around in time and a lot to get straight in your head about who is who. Once I did though I have to say I did enjoy the book although feel perhaps the story could have been told quicker as it is quite a long book. I understand the writer wanted you to really feel like you were in and understood the circus but it did mean the story was a little longer than it perhaps needed to be.
Saying that I did enjoy it in the end and although would not read again I am glad I stuck with it.
I don't want to give too much away, so I'll keep it light. It's written in a very strange way, skipping backwards and forwards in time, and I didn't understand the reason why. I mean, it keeps you reading it, because you want to know what's going on in the present, and when the next section is in the past, you have to grit your teeth and ride it out until the real story appears again. Don't get me wrong, some of the interludes were interesting, particularly the origin of the clock. I'm not sure how necessary they all were though.
There were a lot of characters. Some of them seemed to be of great importance, and then they suddenly faded to nothing. It was hard to feel anything for any of them because the story didn't stay with any of them long enough to really understand them. The actual story was... short. The time jumping and interludes really got in the way there. There was something - an explosion - that I couldn't quite grasp the timing of. Judging by how it was described, in one person's timeline it seemed to take a few days, but in another person's, it was much longer. It ruined it for me.
Overall, I think the story will stay with me. It's worth reading, but only for the descriptions of the circus. They are a true delight. As I didn't feel anything for the characters though, I won't be re-reading it. There are better stories out there, and they don't give you headaches trying to work out if the ending was happy or not. So, I think it's worth a read, just not worth holding onto.
The great part of this novel is the circus and the descriptions of it. It could imagine myself wandering through the tents and deciding which one to explore - that is the beautiful fairy tale side to the book.
The author then seems to have made a decision to make the fairy tale suitable for adults by wrapping the circus in an overcomplicated plot which twists around and ends up achieving nothing at all.
Structurally, the book works with the chapters jumping forward gradually, although I was never quite sure why Bailey's story had to run in a different time.
I just got bored with the relationship between Marco and Celia which is a major part of the plot. If you love each other then you find a way, if you don't then you have to do something else. All the ethereal histrionics really didn't add anything to the novel.
There is good in this book (I admired the way that the author handled the cross over from fantasy to the real world without any worries about rules) but I couldn't find any connection and didn't really care what happened to the circus or its character. Without the engagement then the book failed for me.
The essential premise the book is built around is that of a 'game' being played out between two competitors, Celia and Marco. The two have been pitched against each other from a young age by their respective teachers, 2 magicians with very different schools of thought; the venue for this competition being the Night Circus.
Firstly, what I loved about this book - the setting and sense of atmosphere evoked is simply enchanting. The Night Circus is like something out of dreams, and Morgenstern captures it so vividly with her descriptions - not just visually, but in a way that appeals to all the senses, you can literally smell and taste the circus. I also liked how the story started off with a sense of mystery, and thought there was a good set up for the 'game' to be played out between Celia and Marco. There are a host of colourful characters throughout, some loveable like Poppet and Widget, others shrouded in mystery.
The 'game' being played out between Marco and Celia gets complicated by their developing feelings for each other, and the evolving romance between them plays out sweetly and in a dream-like way that fits the tone of the book.
Whilst the concept of the story and the setting were really good, I was ultimately left a little disappointed in the story's actual execution. Once the 'game' is underway and the Circus set up, not much actually seems to happen until the end of the story. The tone gets a little darker as it progresses, with suggestions that the magic involved at the Circus can have repercussions, and also as the 'game' draws closer to its conclusion. However, for me personally Morgenstern was rather too vague in her allusions to all not being quite right at the Circus. I would have liked to know more about the implications Marco's and Celia's magic had, particularly as it transpired that the challenge was not so much about what wonders they could produce, but rather how they managed the consequences.
In parts it seemed as if Morgenstern had sacrificed actual plot progression and substance for her lyrical prose and descriptions of the Circus, and whilst I very much appreciated the latter, I would still have liked more 'meat' to the actual story.
There are different time frames in the book, and a whole sub-plot that follows a character called Bailey. Whilst I appreciated how this fitted into the book overall, I thought perhaps a little too much time was spent here, and again at the end it was as if things just conveniently came together, with the right person being at the right place at the right time.
Overall an interesting and unique read, but not quite living up to all the hype for me personally.
I tried 3 times to read it.
3rd times a charm as they say.
I feel almost angry after reading it though because I genuinely wanted to love it.
I wanted to be fully immersed in it.
I wanted to be utterly drunk on it.
I wanted to fall completely in love with the characters.
Truth was, I couldnt care less for any of them and while there were bits of it that showed promise, mostly I was just bored and in the end I just wanted it all to end but it felt like the last few pages just stretched out forever... hell, I think I'd throw my self in the fire if it took any longer to conclude.
It was definitely hard work to read.
It really didnt need to be so long.
It was an absolute chore to read and I really, really struggled with the writing style.
However, I did love the core premise of it. It just failed to deliver.
And personally. I feel that the end was unsatisfying... to put it politely.
2 stars for the idea that is at the heart of the story alone.
By coincidence I read Angela Carter's "Nights at the Circus" just before this. It is not that book (although there are a few sly references) and all the better for it.
It is a little of a thriller, although the thrills are intermittent. It has a love storey although it is no surprise that the girl gets the boy. (Which girl? Which boy?). There is some mystery, although the mystery is too guessable and is revealed before the end. The whole, though, is magical and gripping and beautiful.
Oh, and do note the dates in the chapter headings. They are meaningful.