Friday, October 21, 2011

Night Circus

Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern, Random House Audio, narrated by Jim Dale, 13hrs, 39 min., September 2011

 What I usually have trouble with in the magical realism genre (all of the descriptions and an unbelievable story) I liked here, it was the characters that fell short for me.

Spoilers ahead
Night Circus is the latest novel aimed at the adult Harry Potter fans. It is the story of two magicians, Celia and Marco, who are engaged in a lifelong challenge. They do not know the rules of the challenge and they do not know how it will end. Their patrons (Prospero and Alexander) have created a circus as a stage for their challenge. Celia travels with the circus, Marco works his magic from afar. The story is told primarily from the two magicians' perspectives but other characters from the circus and the circus supporters (rêveurs) give their views of the story. Against the odds Celia and Marco fall in love. The story continues over a number of years as they enhance the circus with new tents magically produced. There are a number of minor characters; Poppet and Widget twins born on the day the circus opens; Tsukiko the contortionist who can bend her body into a small glass bottle, the Burgess sisters Scottish supporters of the circus and finally Bailey the young man who eventually saves the circus. The conclusion of the novel wraps up in a satisfying way all of the many narratives in this story.

There were things about this novel that I absolutely loved. The quality of the imagery was outstanding, the authors ability to describe the circus was superb, both beautiful and sensory. The plot of this novel was imaginative yet in a strange way quite believable. I had no trouble signing on to believing in this story (often a problem for me in books like this).

What I did not like about this book was the character development or lack thereof. Of the two main characters I found Celia fairly one dimensional and Marco in particular not very likeable. Early in the novel Marco throws over his girlfriend Isobel without even a care to her feelings and then his behavior towards Chandresh, a man who has proved for him most of his life is really despicable in an attempt to achieve his ends. I was happier with some of the character development of the minor characters, the clockmaker is well drawn, the twins also and finally Bailey I found to be the most interesting. He is one of the few characters who seems to express free will and shows growth over time.

So unfortunately I can’t join the chorus of exuberant reviews for this novel. What I usually have trouble with in the magical realism genre (all of the descriptions and an unbelievable story) I liked here, it was the characters that feel short for me.

I think this would make an excellent film. I never read The Wizard of Oz but I believe that it is probably a better movie than a book, I have the same thought here – this story would be a better film experience.

I listened to the audio version of this novel read by Jim Dale of Harry Potter fame. Dale was excellent in his narration. The non sequential timeline made listening instead of reading a challenge. If you missed the date at the beginning of the chapter you struggled a bit to place the events within the story. Perhaps better to read than listened to.

I listened to a copy of this story I bought at


Zibilee said...

Aarti also felt like the characters weren't really finely drawn when we discussed this one, and I can understand your reaction as well. I felt like a lot of this book was left up to the imagination, and my mind supplied an awful lot where the characterization lacked, which was an interesting experience, and didn't really bother me. I can see where it would bother others though. Great and very honest review, Kathy!

Jessica N. said...

I haven't had a chance to read this one yet, but I've seen it around so much that I'm pretty intrigued. I have to say that leaving a lot up to the imagination isn't a big deal for me, as long as the characters are we'll see :).

Julie said...

I'm so happy that it's not just me. While I thought the story was original and imaginative, I never really felt invested in ANY of the characters (well, except for one who dies .. badly). I haven't put up my review yet, but, yes, I think this one falls more along a 3.5 or 4 rather than 5 star book!

Sayeth said...

I write an audiobook blog and have been thinking about getting this one to listen to. Based on your review, I think I may read a physical copy.

Visiting via Cym's.

Carole said...

I liked this book, but it was not one of my favorites. I agree that the characters fell a bit short, but I didn't dislike them. (There were some characters so minor that I'm not sure why they were even there-such as the Burgess sisters). I also wonder why the story jumped from one time period to another over and over; in my opinion it did not add to the story and the story would not have suffered if told sequentially. Perhaps it was done just to add to the mystery? Still I'm glad I read this one, if only to visit this wonderful dreamworld for a bit.