The Night Circus

4/5 stars

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Hmm, what did I think? This is a tough one to express.

I enjoyed reading The Night Circus, although I know people who wouldn’t have enjoyed it. I was never bored, although I have friends who would have been. I felt the story pulled me along, but I know people who probably would have stalled because the story is quite complicated.

Summed in one word, The Night Circus is WHIMSICAL–almost to a fault. The circus the title refers to is called “The Circus of Dreams,” and the story is dreamy–sometimes my mind felt a little mushy after reading. It takes a lot of brain power just to follow the story. Was that important? Have we already met that character? What was the title of this chapter again? Did the events of this chapter happen before or after the previous chapter? Why did that just happen?

The love story develops a bit quickly. The characters haven’t spent enough time together to really be truly in love that much. However, I think the point of their love story is that the bond between between them is more than just feeling–it’s magical, and they are bound extraordinary powers. (No, not Disney magic–actual magic!) The redeming quality is that they are an extremely likeable pair, so I didn’t feel too put off by the timing of their unusually strong bond. I wanted them to love each other that much.

I think it takes a creative brain to really enjoy and appreciate The Night Circus. You have to stay on your toes as you read.

–The author switches from third person to (very rarely used) second person throughout the story.
–The third person is not typical third person, omniscient (the narrator tells you what the main character is thinking and feeling). Instead, it seemed to me more third person, objective (we only learn what the characters did, not so much what they thought). As a result, while reading you only know as much as the characters do, and you are learning the mysteries right along with the characters.

As if that’s not confusing enough:
–There are fifteen POVs/main characters to keep track of. Seriously.
3.Tara Burgess
7.Mr. Barris
11. Widget
12. Mr. Murray
13. Lainine Burgess
14. Tante Padva
15. Tsukiko

But wait, there’s more:
–The chapters do not always occur in chronological order. So you read one chapter that takes place at one time, then read the next chapter that takes place 15 years in the future, then the next chapter is back to the previous timeline.
–The plot is intentionally vague throughout, and it’s not until the last chapter you learn what you’ve been trying to figure out.

Don’t get me wrong, all the moving pieces make for an very fun ride, in an intellectual sort of way. The story is complicated, and it works.

Also, I must point out that the writing is so beautful, the descriptions are so detailed, and the dialog feels effortless.

Bottom line, it’s a heady, right brained read. I suspect that a left brainer wouldn’t appreciate the whimsy. There is one f-word very early on–like on the first few pages–that sticks out like a sore thumb in a book that is otherwise free of any language or questionable details.

This book was a challanging pleasure to read. I enjoyed it very much, and I give it my full recommendation.

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