karen's Reviews > The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Mar 22, 2012

really liked it
Read from March 19 to 20, 2012

shrug. yeah, i had a good time reading this book. i got really swept away in its atmosphere, and it didn't disappoint me because i didn't go into it thinking it was going to be a masterwork of literature, explaining the human condition and changing the way i saw myself and my relationships in the future. it presented itself as a fantasy novel about a magical victorian circus and that's exactly what it gave me.

i think it is most successful in terms of its mood and its atmosphere. this is not a novel where character development is a priority.it is, and remains,le cirque des rêves. dreams don't need to explain themselves, to me, they just have to be interesting. i think the novel early on absorbed some of the dream-logic from its subject, and as time passed and situations occurred without any sense of explanation, i was just the reader getting carried along with the text; the dreamer following the imagery. it is not that her language is hypnotic, but she has a definite ability to write imagery, and to kindle the reader's imagination.

the plot is simple. against the backdrop of a mysterious circus that appears and disappears around the world without warning, operating in the deepest hours of night, two master magicians release their protégés in a battle of magical one-upsmanship...to the death. yes, it is less dramatic in reality, as years pass and the battles play out more like a contest martha stewart would devise to get her magazine staff motivated...but with magic! it becomes a call-and-response between two magicians who are initially unaware of the other's identity or abilities as they create incomparable attractions in the circus' confines, and struggle to maintain them as time passes and the strain of keeping all their magical balls in the air begins to take its toll.eventually competition gives way to mutual admiration and then... well, magic.

she does love to stress the color scheme of the circus. joel had the best line ever: I can handle reading long, elegant passages about the sets of various Tim Burton films. hee-hee. agreed.

but i loved her descriptions - i could actually envision this circus, and the attractions, and the marvelous flights of fancy - it all just stirred my imagination in a completely rewarding way, and this is a circus i would want to attend. also, dinner parties i would want to attend. yeah, bb, she's talking about me.

god, remember when magic was everywhere? there was that moderately popular children's book series about the boy who was like a wizard or something? and then Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell came out in 2004, and then in one single year, both

based on a story from here:

The Knife Thrower and Other Stories


based on this book:

The Prestige

came out and everything was magical all the time? it was almost too much magic.

i'm glad we took that break to let vampires and other things break up the feeling of magician overload.

and i am glad i read this book for the "readers' advisory for all group read #2. and i'm glad i didn't let all the negative reviews change my mind. i agree with some of the points others made, but ultimately, i found this to be a wholly satisfying book whose reading experience mirrored the themes of magic and dreams, and i was glad that there was still some secrecy at the end of it all.

i mean, you know what happens when a magician reveals their secrets, right??

no one wants that.
369 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Night Circus.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-50 of 103) (103 new)

Elizabeth La Lettrice fabulous! interested to hear your thoughts :)

Nikkie I can't wait to read your review!

message 3: by j (new) - rated it 2 stars

j i thought it was unfabulous but i am still interested to hear your thoughts.

karen i'm scared because i am enjoying it. you guys are all going to yell at me and call me "middlebrow!!" noooo anything but that!

message 5: by j (new) - rated it 2 stars

j everyone likes it. i think you are safe. my reasons for not liking it are my own...

ps i was liking it until like halfway through. then i started liking it less and less.

karen bird brian is hating it.

message 7: by j (new) - rated it 2 stars


er, um everyone has different tastes.

karen ppbblltt. i like it. maaaagic!

message 9: by j (new) - rated it 2 stars

j ploooot. charaaaacter. no, wait. none of those.

karen sorry, haters...

message 11: by David (new)


message 12: by David (new)

David No wonder you eat at Applebee's.

karen i know. there is no saving me from my own mediocrity.

message 14: by j (new) - rated it 2 stars

j That's cool. Some people are into naked emperors

karen at least you know they aren't smuggling weapons.....

message 16: by j (new) - rated it 2 stars

j Twss

message 17: by j (last edited Mar 21, 2012 07:17AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

j Nicole wrote: "but don't you wonder why the hell they don't just stop??????"

or... what the point was in the first place? or how a 30-year, slow-paced, ill-defined, vague and poorly concluded "contest" is supposed to be a good enough plot for a book with no developed characters?

(the author recently said something about how "plotting wasn't her strong suit" and the book was mostly just a jumble of images before an editor explained to her that it needed a point...)

basically, i think if the descriptive writing doesn't do it for you here -- mood and tone -- there is nothing else to enjoy. explains the strong dichotomy in "love it"s and "hate it"s.

message 18: by Libbie Hawker (new)

Libbie Hawker (L.M. Ironside) The book is definitely a word-feast, and not so much a work with a strong plot or great characters. I enjoyed it, mostly (haven't gotten around to reviewing or rating it yet), but I can absolutely understand why there are lots of readers who very much did not enjoy it.

karen okay. come at me.

message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

so glad we agree on this one. :)

Misha you nailed it--this reminded me of the prestige. but it didn't sweep me away the whole time. i wanted it to be more emotionally resonant--like emily st. john mandel's "last night in montreal" or "brief history of the dead' by brockmeier, those books that weave a magic of their own.

message 22: by j (last edited Mar 21, 2012 07:55PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

j "it didn't disappoint me because i didn't go into it thinking it was going to be a masterwork of literature, explaining the human condition and changing the way i saw myself and my relationships in the future."

i didn't go into it seeking a life change. i just wanted a book i liked. expectations played no part in my dislike; i have shown strong resistance to plotless narratives in the past. if i had known this book was so light on story and so long on atmosphere, i probably wouldn't have read it.

it did remind me of the illusionist though. i... did not like that movie.

i love the prestige! the prestige, though, had, if anything, too much plot.

Arah-Lynda Right on.

message 24: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Lovely review! Heh, I like the Martha Stewart comparison.

What's that last picture? I don't recognize it.

message 25: by j (new) - rated it 2 stars

j arrested development!

karen it is the alliance of magicians. scary scary magicians...

message 27: by j (new) - rated it 2 stars

j performing at the gothic castle.

message 28: by j (last edited Mar 21, 2012 08:48PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

j Bird Brian wrote: "disagree with four-stars..."

Your inalienable privilege.

"disagree with four-stars, but i respect your very well-presented points. i will grudgingly vote for this review, but only because you are awesome."

The key word in that passage is "I", (congratulations on using the shift key on your computer, though, and understanding the uses of capitalization. No, really, kudos). As you are not Karen, I fail to understand why you would feel it necessary to inform her of how wrong she is in holding and expressing her own opinions in her own review.

I don't care if you don't agree with me, but would once again congratulate you on learning the rules of English language writing with respect to capitalization, as if you expect to be taken seriously by intelligent, discerning readers, as opposed to merely dismissed as a rude little troll.


message 30: by r.b. (new) - rated it 4 stars

r.b. magical balls.

message 31: by Mariel (new)

Mariel I liked this review! Gr just got a tiny bit more ruined.

message 32: by Mariel (new)

Mariel Bird Brian wrote: "haha- I am trolling karen!"

Give her the bird!

karen if you give me the bird, i will show you how magical these balls are...

message 34: by David (new)

David The Illusionist was a horrible, horrible movie.

That is all.

karen david has an opinion about a movie! how unexpected!

message 36: by David (new)

David Did you like The Illusionist, brissy?

Because that was middlebrow too.

karen i honestly don't remember. which one was bowie in?

message 38: by j (new) - rated it 2 stars

j Prestige. Illusionist has the seventh heaven girl, all serious. Ha.

karen i probably liked that one, too. i don't remember it much, though. i know i like steven millhauser. a lot.

message 40: by David (last edited Mar 22, 2012 06:23AM) (new)

David karen wrote: "i probably liked that one, too. i don't remember it much, though. i know i like steven millhauser. a lot."

Let me refresh your memory. It was this dumb story about this dumb illusionist guy who was played by dumb Edward Norton. He's in love with some dumb broad or something. And there's some kind of dumb bullshit about whether his dumb illusions are real or not. Paul Giamatti does something dumb that I can't remember, and the whole dumb thing is filmed in some dumb nostalgic sepia tint, trying to make it seem all old-timey and shit, which is dumb.

message 41: by David (new)

David I wish I could hit Edward Norton in the face with a shovel.

Just once.

karen i helped him at the bookstore once. we had a nice conversation about mark helprin.

message 43: by David (new)

David I'm assuming you only did that because you didn't have a shovel ready-to-hand.

karen yes, conversations about novelists i have never read are frequently my substitute for lethal shovelings. wwjd and all.

message 45: by David (new)

David Not lethal. Just disfiguring.

I'm not a sociopath or anything.

karen now i understand why you are so stubborn to embrace death to smoochy.

message 47: by Mariel (new)

Mariel I walked out of The Illusionist.

karen wow, i don't remember it being that bad. but i have a really high tolerance for bad movies. i kind of love bad movies.

message 49: by Mariel (new)

Mariel I have a rational dislike of Ed Norton that helped.

I love The Prestige.

message 50: by David (new)

David Mariel wrote: "I walked out of The Illusionist."


« previous 1 3
back to top