The basics: There's a black and white circus. It comes at night. It's magical. People love it.
My thoughts: I confess the premise of a magical circus didn't grab me, but the opening pages certainly did. Morgenstern creates a fascinating, magical, historical world. I was utterly absorbed for the first one hundred pages. I stayed awake late to read more.
About half-way through the novel, I sensed it plateauing. Descriptions of the circus still abounded, as new tents were added and different people experienced them. I became restless because so little was actually happening. The circus appeared in fascinating cities around the world, yet the setting wasn't incorporated in any way. Knowing it was in Paris or Egypt didn't add anything, which disappointed me.
I'm a huge fan of character-driven novels, and much of what I loved in the first half of the book were the character descriptions. My favorite description was of the Burgess sisters:
"The Burgess sisters arrive together. Tara and Lainie do a little bit of everything. Sometimes dancers, sometimes actresses. Once they were librarians, but that is a subject they will only discuss if heavily intoxicated."Moregenstern also played with time, which I initially enjoyed. This early musing from Bailey is divine:
"He reads histories and mythologies and fairy tales, wondering why it seems that only girls are ever swept away from their mundane lives on farms by knights or princes or wolves. It strikes him as unfair to not have the same fanciful opportunity himself. And he is not in the position to do any rescuing of his own."We meet Celia and Marco as children, and I was eager to see them grow up and duel. Despite promising beginnings, I didn't feel either character was terribly well developed. I longed for more descriptions of their thoughts and feelings rather than the magic each contributed to the circus.
While the magic of the circus captivated me for two hundred pages, the lack of character development and plot hindered my enjoyment of the book as a whole.
Favorite passage: "There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The quests lack clarity of goal or path. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise."
The verdict: Despite a strong beginning, The Night Circus failed to live up to its early promise. I longed for more adventure in plot and more development in the characters I found so intriguing. Ultimately, this passage reflects my thoughts on the book as a whole:
'You are not taking this as seriously as you should.'
'It's a circus,' Celia says. 'It's difficult to take it seriously.'
'The circus is only a venue.'The circus was a lovely venue, but it wasn't enough to sustain this novel.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Length: 400 pages
Publication date: September 13, 2011
Source: publisher, via Edelweiss
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