This week's Friday review - The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.
The Night Circus is a wholly original novel, unlike anything I've read before. While I enjoyed it very much (so much in fact that I initially borrowed it from the library but decided to buy the hardcover because I know I'll read it again), this book is not for everyone. I'll tell you what I liked about it and what wasn't so hot too. I'll also share with you some thoughts from friends of mine who have read it who didn't love it as much as me so you have some perspective on it before you buy it or commit the time to read it.
First, What I Loved About The Night Circus:
An original, imaginiative place - the night circus. This book is like Harry Potter for adults. J.K. Rowling gave kids Hogwarts. Erin Morgenstern has given adults the night circus. For people who love magic and mystery, Morgenstern created an adult world where magic is real and the mysterious is displayed for the visitor to the night circus. Morgenstern created a world that feels so complete - down to the smells of the foods served - that the reader begins to believe that she could actually go visit it. I want to go to the night circus! If you enjoy becoming immersed in a magical realm, then The Night Circus may be for you.
A beautiful love story that does not feel like a romance novel. I enjoy a romance novel from time to time, but I prefer my romance to come organically out of a story rather than be formulaic. If you like a great lovestory but don't enjoy romance novels per se, then the Night Circus may be for you. There are scenes between Marco and Celia that are so beautiful and so descriptive, you feel like you are right there with them. The whole scene that takes place between them in the house and with the pillow room - outstanding.
There are other things to commend The Night Circus, but for me these were the two highlights. Above all, it is a story that immerses you into a very fun, magical, intriguing and wholly original world. Not since I read the first Harry Potter book have I read a book more imaginative than this one.
Now, for what could have been improved and/or what's not so hot:
Lack of plot. Okay, there is a plot. Sort of. But the plot is the weak spot of the book. I had the opportunity to hear Erin Morgenstern do an interview on NPR about this book and I know that for a long time during the process, she just had pages and pages of description about the circus but no real plot. Efforts were made to create a plot, including the lovestory between Celia and Marco, but the plot still feels like an add-on. In a group discussion on this book, we all agreed that the best parts were the parts where the author described the circus, written in 2nd person. So if you are someone who can't stand to read a book that's not strong on plot, then this may not work for you.
Another complaint that I heard raised about the book was that it lacked depth of meaning or theme. For at least one reader I discussed this book with, she felt that it was just a lovely description of a circus and a bit of a lovestory with not much else. I think that's a valid point to raise. Frankly when I read it I was just enjoying being a voyeur of the circus so much, the lack of strong plot and/or lack of well developed theme didn't bother me at all.
So bottom line, I loved it and consider it one of my top reads of 2011. If you want to read a book that takes you on a fun ride to another world, then check out The Night Circus.