karen's Reviews > The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
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's review
Mar 19, 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.
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Comments (showing 51-100 of 104) (104 new)

karen i like him, too. and this is my thread, suckers!

message 52: by David (last edited Mar 22, 2012 11:39AM) (new)

David Edward Norton is a pompous asshat.

And please don't call him Ed Norton because I don't want him to be conflated with the COOL Ed Norton:

karen he likes mark helprin

message 54: by David (new)

David Bird Brian wrote: "oh, wait, are we talking about the person, or the characters he portrays in movies? I know nothing of the person."

The person. The guy who bullied the director of American History X into quitting and then re-cut the film into the doodoo it is.

message 55: by Tuck (new) - rated it 1 star

Tuck i really liked "antproof case", need to read more helprin maybe Memoir from Antproof Case
[not from melville house though :(]

Micha As fluffy as it is, I really like this book as well. I love the descriptions, the circus and the side story about Bailey, Poppet, & Widget. I also liked hearing about the investors of the circus, like the architect and the twins, if they had been present more as characters and less as extras who come in to fill the need plot requirements.

karen i really liked poppet and widget. despite my stance on twins

Micha I kept forgetting that they were twins. In my head, they didn't even look that much alike. After reading Joel & BB's reviews, I suspect my imagination made this book into something better than what was actually there.

Micha LOL. It was better than anyone could possibly imagine.

message 60: by Will (new) - rated it 3 stars

Will Byrnes A lot of pretty pictures, some decent romantic elements and a lot of promise, but not up to the hype.

karen it is probably better than Fifty Shades of Grey.

message 62: by j (new) - rated it 2 stars

j karen wrote: "it is probably better than Fifty Shades of Grey."


karen "anastasia, i always want sex with you.it's heartwarming to know you feel the same," he says dryly.....

message 64: by j (new) - rated it 2 stars

j i hope she didn't take it dryly IYKWIM.

message 65: by Eh?Eh! (new)


Elizabeth La Lettrice Joel wrote: "i hope she didn't take it dryly IYKWIM."

HAHAHA You guys are killin' me over here.

Megs ♥ I liked it too, Karen! Yes it has basically no plot, but it was still entertaining to me. :) This is one of those rare books where I can agree and completely understand the reasons others don't like it, but still like it myself.

message 68: by Esteban (new)

Esteban del Mal I'm late to this, but I want to go on record with my contention that:

1.) Both of those magician movies suck, and;
2.) Edward Norton sucks.

karen man - i never get notifications anymore...

you suck, esteban. you suck.

also: ♥

switterbug (Betsey) I, too, engaged with mood and atmosphere. As well as allegory to Tarot. A good friend of mine loved it for its structure.

Great review, Karen!

message 71: by Rosa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rosa I've been following your reviews for a while & finally just wanted to say hey! Sometimes when I finish a book & don't have much to say about it, I read your review & feel totally let off the hook that someone already put it all into words, and much better than I could have - for this reason, sometimes when I finish a book & do have something to say, I avoid reading your reviews so that I won't be intimidated into silence because again, you articulated it so much better (I know this even before my words are written - it's a dead certainty! :) Anyway, loved your review, especially where you point out that the book is all about atmosphere, not so much plot or characterization - for me this was a another "Why won't you give us half stars, Goodreads?" title - I would've given 3 1/2...

karen aw, that's no fun!! write reviews!! surely you can find different pictures of cats than i use!


Laima Great review as usual Karen.... I liked this book too!

message 74: by Rosa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rosa for some reason Goodreads never notified me that you had responded to my comment (despite the fact that I've set it to notify) - it had been so long, I actually went back to look at your review in the dorky hopes of seeing cat pictures - sigh.

karen yeah, notifications have been spotty.

no cats here, but lemme see if i can hook you up:


message 76: by Jen (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jen I like Edward Norton. I have also been known to like bad movies.

But David already knows this.

Karen, I haven't written my review yet, but I liked this book without being overly fond of it. It lacked danger for me, though. It was pretty, yes, but I kept thinking that on the next page something sinister would happen. And then, on that next page, I thought, well, maybe a few more pages then? But no. Everything was safe and all dressed well and were wonderfully fed.

message 77: by Rosa (last edited May 07, 2012 08:20PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rosa Oh, I didn't mean to imply that I didn't appreciate your cats-free review the 2nd time around. Actually, I meant to say in my first go round that I really liked the line you drew between this book & Jonathan Strange etc. - both works had me completely immersed while reading (although both got a bit draggy for me before the end), but then afterwards, they leave no lasting impression whatsoever (poof!) Also, seeing your review for the 2nd time made me realize that I've maybe been laughing too hard at John Cusack's Edgar Allen Poe getup because Edward Norton looked equally preposterous not that long ago...

karen oh, god, don't get me started on that poe movie.... jesus...

you are totally right abut the lack of danger, jen... good call.

Namie I have yet to read this book but having read your review I realize that when ONE book comes out and does well suddenly everyone wants to come out w a book with the same type theme...

Craig Knight I concur with your review! Thanks for the detail of observation and feeling you put into what you said about The Night Circus!

karen sure, no problem - thanks!

Luiza That's such a good review! I couldn't agree more... Every little detail enrols in creating the most magical atmosphere; it is everything I hope for in a fantasy book! ;)

karen yes! i'm glad you liked it, too!

message 84: by Caro (new) - rated it 4 stars

Caro M. I just finished the book and I was going to write a review, but heck, I've read yours instead and I completely agree with you. Maybe it's not a masterpiece of world literature to re-read it again and again, but it really was a pleasure to dive into the world of black and white together with the author. Also, thanks for posting the link to The Knife Thrower and Other Stories - I've seen the movie not so long ago and I didn't realise there was a book, I'm going to check it straight away.
I'm surprised by the number of "likes" under the "hating" review, this book really doesn't deserve it, but it's ridiculous when someone gets disappointed by the book because it wasn't exactly what he(she) expected after reading the review - and here we go bashing the book and the author... Pathetic.
Once again, thanks for your review :)

karen yeah, i think it's cool, though, when a book can inspire even a strong negative reaction. i kind of enjoy that; how some of my friends' favorite books i completely hate... but i understand - this book doesn't really do anything so offensive to deserve vitriol, really. it's just fun. but i totally get that people who like a certain genre will be critical of a book that is trying and falling short. enjoy the millhauser - he is one of my favorites.

Bernadine agree not my favorite genre but can see it would appeal to others I also like more character development..so mysteries long on action/short on charactr are not favorites too..still think it was worth a look and would recommend it to those who like this kind of book

message 87: by Karen (new) - rated it 1 star

Karen Garrison Joel wrote: "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."

Joel, say why you liked it less and less as you kept going? :-)

message 88: by Karen (new) - rated it 1 star

Karen Garrison Mariel wrote: "I walked out of The Illusionist."

say more...(I don't think I've seen it)

message 89: by Karen (new) - rated it 1 star

Karen Garrison Joel wrote: ""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..."

Oh! I see you did express more feelings and thoughts about why you didn't like it *here*(I asked several posts down).
I liked the The Prestige too, so I hear you on that.

However, just talking about everything...books that are reverie-like and atmospheric, without much plot can be cool to read ..just for those things-the atmosphere and dream-like story, too...

message 90: by Karen (new) - rated it 1 star

Karen Garrison Naryamie wrote: "I have yet to read this book but having read your review I realize that when ONE book comes out and does well suddenly everyone wants to come out w a book with the same type theme..."

Yeah, I thought of that, too Naryamie. Agreed.
It does seem this story is more actually magical to read and was dream-like.
The Prestige, for instance, had some charm, but wasn't so magical...it was just *about* magic, or really, illusions and illusionists. Otheriwse it was rather cold and calculating, though the movie was kinda "pretty".

message 91: by Karen (new) - rated it 1 star

Karen Garrison Joel wrote: "karen wrote: "it is probably better than Fifty Shades of Grey."


heehee. But seriously...nooo. Big deal, more sex.

Shalini Sharma Great as far as description goes....she builds up the book well but at about pg 300 i lost interest as the characters did'nt develop.

message 93: by Jeff (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jeff Falzone yea, it had its moments. I really had trouble not getting angry every time there was a long description of one of the leads doing "real" magic for the other. Ug.

Now I dive into A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain.

karen this is great news!

Jordan smudge. this report/review rocks!! lol I love your analogies :) you made my day

karen thank you!

message 97: by Sam (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sam Tindal I actually loved The Night Circus, I read it as a free ebook that I downloaded from iBooks and yes it is magical in every way to me.

Shaina Your review left me in stitches. I didn't read it all because of spoilers, but what I read really tickled me

Shaina Your review left me in stitches. I didn't read it all because of spoilers, but what I read really tickled me

message 100: by karen (new) - rated it 4 stars

karen i'm glad!! i don't think i was too spoilery, but better safe than sorry!

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