Meagan's Reviews > The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
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Nov 26, 11

Read from October 07 to November 22, 2011

I heard the interview with the author on NPR and was immediately interested in this book. Not just its topic matter, but the style in which it is written.

I have to say that I was not disappointed. The experience of reading this book about, well, the heart of a mystical and truly magical circus, is unique and strange. We jump around in time and perspective, piecing together the "facts" like awkward jigsaw puzzle we can only see one part of at a time, and yet it is a pleasure to do so, not a frustration. The writing style is descriptive. Period. There is so much showing, that the book actually requires the full attention of the reader. This seemingly all knowing narrator isn't going to tell you much.

I have heard others complain that they didn't beleive that the two characters in love were actually in love. I knew this before I started reading, and perhaps that is why I was on the look out for it. Admittedly, at first their attraction is subtle, given through the slightest prolonged stares that could simply be because of other interests, but as their distant relationship progresses you can feel the draw in every action they take toward the other. The moment they later confess to realizing they were in love were the same moments that, at the time, I realized they were in love.

This relationship is perhaps the best example of the type of reading this book demands. It is like reading a movie. Literally. I think in books we have a tendency to skip over the little gestures and descriptions provided for us- but this book requires that we pay full attention to them. Every little action or detail links together in the intricate web that is this story. It is a purely visual analysis despite the pictures being made of nothing more than words.

And what delightful pictures they are, so vivid and shocking. Making me wish I was there and sometimes making me feel as though I were.

The plot is set up to make us think it is about a competition or a love story, but it isn't. The true main character is the circus itself, its heart, its pulse, its magic, its atmosphere. This is the story of what keeps it ticking.

As for the magic itself it is real magic and you kind of need to accept that at the start of the book. If you're not into anything that is slightly not scientifically possible, and anything that isn't annoys the beegees out of you, perhaps you should steer away. The magic is real and powerful and requires a certain amount of suspension of belief. Having said that, each trick comes with work or a price. Also, the characters themselves are not oblivious to this. They come in three sets - unaware, and uninvolved enough to really notice - involved and accepting, unquestioning - involved and confused & plagued by the implausibility, perhaps even to death or craziness. And in a way, that is the same choice you as the reader gets to make. As for those who accept it, look at all the marvelous things we accept now. there must be a way we say, and move on. No one really thinks it is actually magic, as unexplainable as it may be to ourselves.

My only disappointment comes in the second to last chapter. Though what is revealed here and how it is revealed makes sense and fits together well, I feel it was ultimately unnecessary. On one hand, it feels like unneeded commentary (perhaps from the author as it comes from the two characters who otherwise spoke very little (though even that makes sense)). On the other, it feels like it is saying "in case you didn't get that this is what it was really about..." It feels almost like a gimmick, a well used gimmick, but a gimmick nonetheless. The last chapter is perhaps all I really needed, with a smidgen of the details I gain from the second to last.

Though, I can't begrudge Morgensteen too much. With such a puzzle, it seems to necessitate and answer key somewhere and since a few other reviews seem to have also missed the mark, even with it, perhaps it was a proper move.

In short, the whole book makes you use your 5 senses (invoked through description and imagination) and your ability to analyze and critically think about human nature and social interaction, not to mention about love, purpose, fate, magic, and even story telling itself.

This would make a great Book Club book. I can only imagine the discussions that can come out of this and all the different perspectives it opens itself up to by refusing to explain away all the characters feelings and actions.

Otherwise it is good for anyone interested in magic or fantasy or the art of story telling.

Such a great experience and a thoughtful read.
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