Review: The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern (2011)

The Night Circus coverThe pitch: The Cirque des Reves, designed at the turn of the last century as the stage for a magical competition. The competitors, irrevocably bound to their fathers’ deadly game. The rest of the circus company and its patrons, caught up in a gorgeous creation they barely understand.

The review: I always end up crying on trains. I choose all-consuming heartbreaker books, and with nothing to distract me, I’m inevitably a mess by the end. I must love it or I wouldn’t keep doing it, right?

So this was the perfect train book (complemented by the stark trees and patchy mountain snow of central PA out my window). Magical, delicious, both timeless and entirely original — except for the echoes of a theatrical experience only shared by a relative handful of Bostonians, which made me feel rather in the club, like the circus-following reveurs. The book is slow, and often more vignette than plot — I felt like I was savoring a big box of oddly-flavored chocolates. Not a single wrong note, down to the very last page. (I do love a satisfying epilogue.)

Read-alikes: Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst.

Also, if the atmosphere of this book appeals to you, and you have the chance, see Sleep No More or another Punchdrunk production. I felt the whole time the kinship between this book and the Boston ART‘s Sleep No More (which closed years ago, before it moved to New York); it made me happy to see the show prominently featured in the acknowledgments. The connection with the ART’s Pippin (now moved to Broadway) is less clear, and I’ve no idea if Morgenstern saw that one, but it’s another heartrending, magical circus of entrapment — she should see it and so should you.

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2 Responses to Review: The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern (2011)

  1. Greg Friedman says:

    Y’know, I agree that I loved the vignettes, and I thought the whole thing was ludicrously creative top to bottom. But I remember not feeling that the ending really delivered. I’m not sure what they could have done instead, but the resolution of the competition just felt anticlimactic somehow.

    • Sam says:

      SPOILERS
      Hmm. I suppose I can see that, but it did work for me — especially once it became clear to me that Bailey’s story was further in the future than the rest and that the two storylines were bound to converge. I’m a sucker for seemingly unrelated converging storylines, and also for characters who don’t have a great destiny but manage to achieve great things anyway because they care enough to put the work in.

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