Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book Review - The Night Circus

The Night Circus. 
by Erin Morgenstern.

"The circus arrives without warning."

I absolutely adored this book. I listened to the audio and Jim Dale's voice only enhanced the whole experience of " Le Cirque des Reves" - and yes, reading this book is an experience. There is very little plot, hardly any action and secondary storylines (such as the romance between the two magicians) are almost an afterthought when compared with the experience of the circus itself. Le Cirque is, in a way, the main character - something looming in the background of every scene, touching the lives of all the other characters in different ways. The descriptions of the circus, and the magic, are lush and decadent, and in places the writing reads like beautiful poetry. There is an abundance of thoughtful imagery and stunning metaphors and it is simply quite exquisite. I loved the third person/present tense style of writing which gives everything a detached aloofness which I think only adds to the magical dreamlike atmosphere.

This is definitely a book which will polarize readers. If you are prepared to just soak in the magic, if you like "atmosphere" and have an appreciation for imaginative descriptions then you will enjoy this book. If you like 'your magic' to have rules and parameters and for all the hows/buts/whys to be covered off then this book will likely frustrate you. It requires significantly more suspension of disbelief than many books. There is also (despite what the description might suggest) very little action with the 'magician's duel' more aptly described as flirtation by illusion. I had very little expectations going into this book, knowing only that there was magic, so the lack of thrilling magical 'fierce competition' didn't bother me though I suspect some readers will feel ripped off by the slow burn of this book.

Dreamlike is something Le Cirque strives for and I think Morgenstern has achieved this quality in her writing too. Very evocative, clever and enthralling, I listened to this book as if caught in the circus's spell. I particularly enjoyed the more sinister side of the circus and the key players, giving everything a darker edge to what would otherwise maybe be 'too pretty'. Likewise, I also thought the ending (particularly "bonnes reves") added a satisfying completeness to the novel.

I will certainly be watching for more of Miss Morgenstern's works, an easy 5 stars and place on my favourites shelf. 


  1. I just finished this a couple of nights ago. I enjoyed it for the most part, and having read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell this year too, found the whole magical themes thing really enjoyable. But I struggled for the last part, maybe it was TOO dream-like and unresolved for me?

  2. I loved it too. It feels as if the author changed their mind about making it dark and went for dreamlike somewhere after the magicians were bound to the challenge.