A Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

So I've decided that I should finally get around to posting my thoughts on one of the most discussed books of the year... yeah, you know the one.  So I read The Night Circus.  I liked The Night Circus.  I suggest trying to obtain a copy if it crosses your path.

However, I do not suggest selling your first born to get it.  Nor do I suggest selling a kidney. Or "forgetting" your brother's Christmas gift at home if the holiday spending is creeping up (you know, if you can't decide which purchase is more important.)  I would never do that.  Ever.

It's a good read, but not quite as spectacularly fantastic and untouchable and amazing and all the other jazz I was seeing on every blog I stumbled upon.

Ok, you might have loved it. And that's great!  I just found it a little lacking without being completely uninteresting.

First, I'll start with the real beauty of the work:

Atmosphere.  Hands down, Morgenstern knows how to build a dream world.  Sure, the descriptions are a little longwinded at times and almost too whimsical for my taste, but this is a world where magic lives and breaths and I could stomach it for that alone.

This was the selection for the month of October for my book club.  We really wanted something that included a little supernatural, in addition to something that was just going to be a great Fall read.  I love the way that Morgenstern describes the crisp air and the falling autumn leaves.  I wanted to run around under a blue sky, all the while anticipating the pop from black and white tents in the distance.  I also enjoyed the attention she showed the costume of each of the characters. What can I say?  I'm a dress junky.

The sad part(s):

I really wanted to know the characters on a deeper level.  I felt like so much energy went into describing each tent, and each sky that surrounded these magical events, that it left little for the people that I needed to help me develop an emotional attachment.  I felt Marco dry and unlovable.  What exactly was Celia seeing here?  Ok, I digress.  The characters fell flat for me.

Additionally, several book club members pointed out that major themes in the history of storytelling were used to carry this story to the finish line.  Time, good vs. evil and so forth.  Instead of really focusing on one and developing further, Morgenstern threw each into the pot and left unsupervised.

Moving toward completion, I was left unfulfilled as the climax seemed to move at such a pace and without much clarity that I was actually questioning on whether or not it was actually over.  What a bummer.

All and all, I enjoyed my time spent with this one.  Not my strongest recommendation of the year, but entertaining, nonetheless.


  1. I feel like I've heard variations of your thoughts about this book, although on other blogs the downsides were downplayed more. The lack of character development would be mentioned as an afterthought, once all of the gushing and sell-your-first-born talk was out of the way.

    Love the review and I think I'll check this out once the hype dies down a bit.

  2. Red,
    Yeah, the hype with this one made me expect so much more. I'm usually ok with knowing it won't be the best read of the year, but this one really left me a bit disappointed. I would say wait for the paperback. It was a great first novel but not the best read of the year.

  3. It's nice to read a balanced review of this book, all of the hype was putting me off. Strangely, your more middling review makes me want to read it again!

  4. Sam,
    The hype blew this one up big time! It wasn't bad...just not as terrific as everyone had led me to believe.

  5. I wasn't wild about this one either, but I did enjoy it. I agree about the characters. Once the stage was set, so to speak, I became bored. I wanted to have an affinity for someone (anyone), and I never found it. Worth reading, even though I didn't love it.

  6. I agree that the best part about this book was the imaginative and unique atmosphere of the night circus. I wouldn't say the characters fell flat for me, but I would agree there was certainly room to develop them further.

  7. Alyce just mentioned she wasn't totally taken by this book either. I don't do much magical realism, but liked this one.

  8. Carrie,
    Yeah, I just didn't love it. I was fun but nothing that I would remember years from now.

    I think that we all agree on the enchantment of the atmosphere. Aside from Poppet and Widget, I just really didn't like any of the characters.

    It was certainly a fun read. Not on my favorites list, but entertaining, nontheless.

  9. It seems to be the consensus so far. Josie thought the same, that it was a little superficial. I heard similar opinions on The Tiger's Wife. Beautiful prose doesn't hit home without a purpose. At least, not for me.

  10. Great review, Beth! I think you captured the "it's fun but shallow" idea perfectly. Also, I'm glad you mentioned the cramming in of different literary themes and the in-your-face presentation of them...almost feels like this one may have been better marketed as YA.

  11. Ben,
    I just got The Tiger's Wife and I'm really excited about it. I'll be sharing so you can give me the full run down then. Yeah, it was fun just not incredible.

    I think we shared the same feelings (actually, I know we did). I agree completely with the YA sentiment.


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