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The Great Night

3.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,148 Ratings  ·  256 Reviews
A brilliant and mesmerizing retelling of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

On Midsummer Eve 2008, three people, each on the run from a failed relationship, become trapped in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park, the secret home of Titania, Oberon, and their court. On this night, something awful is happening in the faerie kingdom: in a fit of sadness over the end of her
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Farrar Straus Giroux
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Aug 08, 2011 Miriam rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: San Franciscan Shakespeareans
Shelves: fantasy, theater
This book takes place here:

My parents used to take me to this park as a kid -- not often, it was farther away than the Panhandle. As a little urban child I thought it was like the real forest.

And it is the real forest, in The Great Night, the forest that is endless, and dangerous, and beautiful, the forest where you lose your way and find yourself -- or a horde of crazy fairies, or some bums putting on a play of Soylent Green, or some other heartbroken souls lost on their ways to a party none o
May 18, 2011 Alissa rated it liked it
This book is literally a clusterfuck; as in, people and faeries are clustered together. Fucking. They are also masturbating, having sex with trees, spying on people masturbating, and spying on people masturbating on trees.

Well, I see that you're kerflummoxed as to why I gave this book a lowly three stars. Truthfully, I was thinking two until the tree sex scene.

So anyway, what is going on in this beautiful disaster of a mind f-ing? A bunch of heartbroken, lonely ass people stumble into Buena Vis
Aug 26, 2014 Oriana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2014
Jesus, this took me forever. I have my reasons, but the upshot is that it was really hard for me to keep this all together, because it's a crazy sprawl. I'm not sure how much of it was my general distractedness, but honestly I think he was trying to do way way way too much here, with too many characters and too much backstory, especially since it was all scrimmed over with fantastical and evil faeries and a retooling of Midsummer Night's Dream.

I didn't dislike it, but I definitely got lost a lo
Jul 21, 2012 Tim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admit I was a little worried that "The Great Night" wouldn't be in the same league with Chris Adrian's other two novels, "Gob's Grief" (nearly great) and "The Children's Hospital" (stone-cold great). Tepid ratings on Goodreads, for instance, coupled with what seemed to me to be a plot description fraught with potential peril gave me pause. Here's the pitch: a modern-day re-imagining of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," set in San Francisco, featuring faeries from the play, faerie quee ...more
amanda eve
Jul 06, 2012 amanda eve rated it did not like it
Shelves: i-give-up
I give the fuck up. I strongly disliked the book as a whole, but the whole cougar/teenage boy salad tossing/queefing scene made me want to throw my Kindle across the room.

This book is dreary and tedious as fuck. The scenes with Titania and her court were by far the most interesting parts; I even liked Demon Puck! The humans are just horrible and their stories were so dull and repetitive.

I get the sense that Adrian, in an attempt to make this a truly unique spin on Shakespeare, confused "spin"
switterbug (Betsey)
Sep 21, 2013 switterbug (Betsey) rated it it was ok
In this phantasmagorical tale, Chris Adrian reshaped “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” into a mammoth, messy, tilted, erotic, meandering reimagining of Shakespeare’s comedy into an elaborate feast of faeries and monsters, Lilliputians and giants, demons and derelicts, heart-broken humans and a group of outspoken homeless people who are staging a musical reenactment of SOYLENT GREEN. And that is just a segment of the odd and atavistic population of characters that you will meet in this multiple narrat ...more
Maria Headley
Oct 12, 2011 Maria Headley rated it really liked it
Shelves: dying-to-read
Basically, Chris Adrian ranks in my personal pantheon of author rockstars. I love people who write this way - both beautifully, on a sentence by sentence level, and with elements of the unreal incorporated in the text. I had about ten years of reading books set exclusively in naturalistic universes, and honestly, I've come to the conclusion that the universe, even the one we know and see and accept as unmagical, IS rich and strange and unlikely. I appreciate Adrian's work, because he seems to fe ...more
Larry Hoffer
Apr 01, 2012 Larry Hoffer rated it liked it
Sometimes a book has a beautiful story at its core, but the thread tends to get lost in overcomplication. That's the way I felt about Chris Adrian's The Great Night, a well-written book that meshes the emotional, relationship-driven crises of three San Franciscans with characters from A Midsummer Night's Dream, with mixed results.

It's Midsummer Eve in 2008. Three strangers, each dealing with the wreckage of a relationship, enter Balboa Park, headed to the same party. But unbeknownst to them, Ti
Sam Ruddock
Dec 08, 2011 Sam Ruddock rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, read-2011
The Great Night is one of those rare books that I’m impossibly grateful to have found. A modern reworking of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it is conceptually daring, stylistically exciting and presents a view of humanity that is stark and powerful and unlike anything I’ve read before.

It is Midsummer’s Eve in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park, where Oberon, Titania and their faerie kingdom have set up court. But the Great Night celebrations do not go quite as planned. Unable to deal wit
Dee at EditorialEyes
For this review and others, visit the EditorialEyes Blog.
4 out of 5

Something is gloriously, tragically amiss in San Francisco’s Buena Vista Park. In fact, to mix my Shakespeare quotes, something wicked this way comes. It’s also something strange and chaotic and deeply human.

In Chris Adrian’s The Great Night, the faerie court of Titania and Oberon are celebrating another Midsummer Night, many moons after the events of Shakespeare’s play—though “celebrating” is not exactly the right word. Af
Kaycie Hall
Oct 18, 2012 Kaycie Hall rated it it was amazing
This book is one of the best I've read this year. The ending is a little hazy and confusing, but overall I loved it. The third chapter was published in the New Yorker a year or so ago, and I still think that it can stand alone as a beautiful story. It's about Titania and Oberon and the changeling boy they've come to love as their own and his struggle with cancer.Really the scenes with Titania and Oberon and their struggles with death and mortality and human sadness are the most moving parts of t ...more
Mar 06, 2013 Caleb rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
The Great Night is a wonderfully strange trip of a novel. Though it is drenched in magic and the fantastic it is often pulled down into the mundane world where it becomes another enthralling but ultimately useless curiosity and distraction.

Frequently startling and dark in equal measure it draws the reader into its world for one night through offering a glimpse into the range of characters who are grounded and familiar but still somewhat surreal. While the fantastic and magic are the elements th
Marc Kozak
Jun 06, 2013 Marc Kozak rated it really liked it
I really can't resist a mostly realist book with supernatural elements. After finishing a book like this, I walk around for days wishing it was real. I have a long history of secretly desiring magical explanations for the most mundane of things. Don't you want to live in a world where, instead of casually explaining to people that the reason you are humming "Call Me Maybe" is because you must have heard it in the background somewhere, the real reason is because the Bird Prince of the Hills neede ...more
Cheryl Gatling
This was one weird book. It is advertised as a re-telling of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream in contemporary San Francisco. There are some elements that are the same: young people wandering confused in the woods, poor people practicing a play, and faeries (always spelled that way in the book) being faeries. But this book is a good deal darker, and has details that are so bizarre it makes you wonder what the author was smoking when he wrote it. It's funny, too, though. The Great Night is Mi ...more
Tasha Robinson
Jan 20, 2013 Tasha Robinson rated it really liked it
A startlingly strange, rich novel that has repeatedly been described as a retelling of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," but is something more interesting — an original story that borrows some of the characters and a couple of plot twists. This is top-flight literary fantasy, a Neil Gaiman-esque story about myths and magic and how they intersect with the real world. The prose is lyrical and beautiful, and the scenarios Adrian comes up with to background his mortal characters —a woman whose family for ...more
Jun 26, 2011 Danny rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-book
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 16, 2011 Nathan rated it it was ok
Shelves: other-fiction
Did not enjoy, alas. Interesting idea: Titania and Oberon are separated, and bored Titania frees Puck while at a feast under a tree in a SF public park. Four interesting SF residents are caught up in the subsequent action. However, the novel isn't about the action or resolving the situation, the situation is a premise by which to explore the messed-up humans and their backstory. The story is told in long three-or-four part sentences, which have a rhythm and excitement of their own, but between t ...more
Dec 09, 2013 Maria rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
I really wanted to like this book. I loved the premise, and the first half of the book was really promising. I was especially interested in the story line of Titania and Oberon and their experience of mortal loss in the death of their "adopted" changeling child.

But overall I was quite disappointed with this book. It just failed to tie the stories together in a meaningful way, and the final twists were more frustrating than surprising or exciting. I didn't care much for any of the characters...wh
Jun 27, 2011 Maggi rated it it was ok
To my mind, The Great Night is a mix of genius and insanity, but unfortunately the scales tip over too far into madness. Adrian has the potential to be a mindblowingly great writer, but this book is just too much. I loved the back stories of the three lost characters in the park, and Titania and Oberon's loss of their Boy, but ultimately the fairie stuff was too hard to follow and at times just too darn annoying and distracting. The references to Shakespeare are nicely done, and the characters' ...more
Kim Sheehan
Sep 16, 2011 Kim Sheehan rated it liked it
I liked the concept of this book: a retelling of Midsummer Night's Dream where mortals are trapped in a park in San Francisco facing destruction by the unleashing of a malevolent force. The writing allowed me to see the story in my head. I loved the backstory of Oberon, Titania and Boy, which reflected the author's background in pediatric oncology.

What I didn't like was that this story was just too darn hard to follow. I couldn't keep all the backstories of the mortals straight, and those backs
Jun 26, 2011 Eoin rated it liked it
Shelves: fictions
2.75 The prose is well made and often beautiful, but as a whole this book was simultaneously too much and too little for me. The (too) many characters were given overly equitable, confusingly similar back-stories and the end was unbalancingly abrupt. I'm not sure this is quite readable if one is unfamiliar with A Midsummer Night's Dream, and if one is this book is unnecessary. Worth it for Titania.
May 29, 2011 Theresa rated it liked it
I'm still at a loss as to how to describe this book other than weird. One of the oddest things I've read in a while. Really, that's about it. Well written, definitely, but not sure I really liked it. Or disliked it. I'm very ambivalent. It's a retelling of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with a contemporary, non-fantasy-like feeling. It's just...odd. I'm pretty sure my favorite character was Huff-a homeless guy who was convinced that the mayor of San Francisco was eating his fellow homeless peers. V ...more
JJ DeBenedictis
Jun 13, 2016 JJ DeBenedictis rated it liked it
This was a bit of a strange book, in that it wandered all over and yet still held my interest. The writing is very nice; the plot is non-linear. The emotional life of the characters is what keeps you turning pages.

Oberon and Titania have split up yet again, after coming to genuinely love a changeling boy, rather than just considering him a plaything. After he sickens and dies, they aren't able to deal with this mortal phenomenon known as grief.

At the same time, the book is about the first- and s
Sep 12, 2015 Kenny rated it it was amazing
This is definitely not a book for everyone, and there were times when I too felt really frustrated by the accrual of miscellaneous and extremely bizarre details that didn't seem to connect or amount to much. But this book also rewards persistence and patience, perhaps much like love. First, this book requires a love of Shakespeare. Then, you must appreciate the uncanny or the macabre or the explicit. The multiple comparisons made to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, which I read simultane ...more
Elizabeth Urello
Jul 20, 2014 Elizabeth Urello rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
I thought The Children's Hospital was impressively ambitious and imaginative but maybe didn't quite come off. Also, I really wanted to hate Chris Adrian, because he's one of those people who's all, 'Eh, I guess I'll go to medical school AND the Iowa Writer's Workshop, and then be a doctor AND publish multiple highly acclaimed novels, and, what the hell, might as well go to Harvard Divinity School and win a Guggenheim while I'm at it, all by the time I'm 35, NBD.'

But I have since decided that I'
Hugh Gabrielson
Feb 13, 2016 Hugh Gabrielson rated it really liked it
A strangely moving, if not entirely satisfying, novel. I was skeptical at first about the blending of realistic and fantastic elements, but I was won over pretty quickly. Adrian juxtaposes the very funny with the achingly sad, although the overall vision is quite dark -- however, we are grappling with existential questions, so maybe that's appropriate. The saddest parts have to do with the inability of the human characters to communicate emotionally with one another: love just isn't enough, in t ...more
Mary Newcomb
Somehow I got the idea this book might be appropriate for my Literary Society to read. That idea is wrong. The book is lyrically written and presents an interesting modern spin on A Midsummer Night's Dream. It is, also, confusing and far-reaching in ways which did not advance the story. I am not putting it in my Do Not Read category but am considering initiating a Guarded Recommendation category on its behalf.
May 16, 2011 Jamie rated it liked it
Shelves: adult, retelling
A perfect example of great literary snippets lost in something that just doesn't quite hang together. This retelling of a Midsummer Nights Dream at first had me caring about each character and liking how they meshed, but eventually it just meandered into this long guitar solo and it was a slog to the end. Which is too bad because he writes some amazing sentences. I think he needs a strong heavy handed editor.
I went back and forth between two and three stars for this book and finally decided that if I wrote down a comparison list of likes and dislikes I would probably like a few more things than I would dislike so I will go with three stars. Honestly, I couldn't wait to be done with this book. I'm reading it for a challenge, so I had to finish it or choose something else, otherwise I might have given up on it. The first half of the book was fun and interesting, but it then began to become apparent th ...more
Eleanor Toland
Why is it that telling an upbeat version of a violent, depressing story is "bowdlerization" and "bastardization", but rewriting an optimistic tale into a maelstrom of sex and violence makes the author an "edgy" genius? Retelling King Lear as a fluffy romance novel in which no one actually dies would be perverse and pointless.

The Great Night retells A Midsummer Night's Dream, arguably Shakespeare's most magical, lighthearted play, as ... not a tragedy, not exactly, but as a modern literary novel
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Chris Adrian was born in Washington D.C. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he attended Harvard Divinity School, and is currently a pediatric fellow at UCSF. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2009. In 2010, he was chosen as one of the 20 best writers under 40 by The New Yorker.
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“If I showed you what was in my heart," she said, "it would burn you to a cinder.

"I've tried to burn you similarly," it said, "but you never even noticed when I opened my chest.”
“He went through rooms he named as he discovered them, and which he hardly had time to appreciate before he'd flung open a door at the far end and plunged through. . . . and in the Library of All the Same Book he actually stopped to examine a few of the volumes, all titled Various, that lined the shelves.” 2 likes
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