The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Dates Read: April 2 – 21, 2017
Print Length: 401 pages
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
Genre: Adult, Fantasy
Hello, friends. Welcome to a segment I like to call Boring: A Novel, Circus Edition!
Now this may seem a little harsh, but I feel like it is justified because I was lied to.
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.”
The book description was entirely misleading, and my expectations for it were vastly far away from the reality. Not sure the person who wrote the description on the back of the book even read it. Here are a few lies from the back of the book:
What I was promised: Feats of magic gaining fantastical new heights.
What I was given: A few neat tricks, a cloud maze, and something about an ice garden.
What I was promised: A fierce competition between two young illusionists.
What I was given: Vague references to some competition that supposedly exists neither you nor the competitors know anything about.
What I was promised: A couple who innocently tumbles headfirst into a deep, passionate, and magical love.
What I was given: A couple who barely interacts until about halfway through the book, where immediately following we’ve jumped forward a few years, are told they’ve barely seen each other, and yet I’m just supposed to accept that they’re madly in love.
I feel rather cheated, actually. I love the circus and always have. Hannah from A Clockwork Reader and Sam from Thoughts on Tomes both love this book, and they’re two Booktubers I really trust. But I just didn’t get it. Halfway through I was so bored and apathetic, I thought maybe I’d switch to the audiobook because I’ve finished many a boring book that way and ended up liking them more than I thought I would.
Honestly, the only reason I finished the audiobook was because it was narrated by Jim Dale, and his voice gave me such a warm, fuzzy feeling inside because of the nostalgia. (I read the last three Harry Potter books via his audiobook narration with my dad when I was a kid.)
“We lead strange lives, chasing our dreams around from place to place.”
There were bland, uninteresting characters who I kept confusing. (I still don’t know the difference between Mr. Barris and Herr Thiessen.) For most of the book, I had no clue who the heck Bailey was or, more importantly, why I should care. I couldn’t give you a single personality trait for half the characters in this book. Everyone was flat, flat, and flatter.
I don’t mind slow-moving books. In fact, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is one of my favorite books of all time, and heck if anything happens in that book. (“One day Dante and I did this. Another day, we did that.” Seriously, that’s the whole book, and I love it.)
“The truest tales require time and familiarity to become what they are.”
If nothing else, The Night Circus has at least taught me this: there is such a thing as too much mystery.
Everything is so vague, everything so mysterious. At first, you really want to learn. You want to know more about it. In a mystery, things are supposed to subtly weave together where you can slowly put the pieces together and start to make sense of things.
The Night Circus is so vague and mysterious it gets to a point where I just didn’t care. Sixty percent of the way through and I’d yet to learn a single thing about this competition. That doesn’t make me excited. It doesn’t make me eager. I’m just over it. I don’t care anymore. I felt like I was arguing with my sister, trying to get her to tell me a secret, and I just I got to the stubborn point of fine, don’t tell me.
“I have been surrounded by love letters you two have built each other for years, encased in tents.”
The writing was beautiful, for sure. It’s very rich and descriptive, and imagining the circus was definitely a treat. This is the only reason I’m not giving the book one star. But I warn you, if you go into this book expecting what it says on the back—a fierce magical competition and a beautiful, magical love story—you’re not going to get it.
This novel is not a love story. Which is fine. Just don’t advertise it as “a mesmerizing love story for the ages” when it so clearly isn’t. Marco is kind of a jackass, and I have no idea why Celia likes him in the first place. Probably because we never actually see them fall in love. We’re just told they do, and that’s supposed to be enough.
I really, really wanted to enjoy this book. Unfortunately, it just fell incredibly flat.
“People see what they wish to see. And in most cases, what they are told that they see.”
tl;dr — Beautiful writing and descriptions, but the book summary is dead wrong. Boring characters, too much mystery, slow-moving, lackluster story.