Laura's Reviews > The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
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's review
Dec 17, 2011

Read in December, 2011

It is unlikely that this is the first review of this book that you've read, so you probably already know that the main story line of the book concerns a contest between two budding illusionists that plays out within a magical circus that appears in the middle of the night and disappears nearly as quickly. As I began reading, I found what other readers have found: an enchanting setting and compelling storyline. I was also totally impressive by Morgenstern's use of the third person omniscient point of view (which isn't in all chapters), which is almost Dickensian. Then, somewhere around the 100th page, I found myself finding flaws that other readers have also pointed out: the multiple perspectives were distracting and the purpose of the contest at the center of the book was only vaguely defined. Not enough exposition. Maybe a little too much description.

However, I kept going and started to see the ends pull together, and also started to recognize something else. This book, dare I say it, might just be trying to something different from other books about magic. In fact, when I got to the quote above, which is on page 377 of 387, I realized that it might be something entirely different than what I thought it was, and now I want to read it again. My new reading of the book, which was totally unexpected is just a little bit postmodern, and brings the world of the circus to life again for this particular reader, even though I really thought it was going to lose me in the middle. What I see the book doing is playing with the familiar tropes, with ideas about magic and about illusion, which is, of course, all about perspective. Morgenstern uses her characters to subvert the traditional narrative, and then reinstates it a bit towards the end. There is a whiff of the allegorical, with character names like Prospero and Widget and Mr. Grey, and then there are all those dang references to Shakespeare. So, the book is playful, and new, and maybe almost as good as the hype, although I'm still not sure. But I definitely recommend it and I can't wait to reread it.

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