The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

09 Feb


Reading this book was a joy, but then I stopped to consider the book as a whole and felt underwhelmed, so now I’m not sure what I think about this, until I write this review of course.

It begins with the front cover, as most books do.  it’s eye-catching with its black, white and a dash of red and of course all those one word snippets of reviews give it an added element of what I can only term as the ‘oomph’ factor.

Further exploration gave me a bit of a start as I saw it was a Richard and Judy book club choice, for me always a bit of an embarrassment to buy (see The Greatcoat review for more views on R&J) and even worse, citing how fans of Audrey Niffenegger will enjoy the book.

I tend not to read much of these in book comments unless I need to inspire myself to begin reading but they did seem a bit overblown and dramatic at a quick glance.  To the person who claims “If you are only able to read one book for the rest of your life, make sure it is The Night Circus, you won’t regret it”, well you will regret it as there are many, many better books but that is not to say this isn’t a good book, it just depends on your perspective.

As you know I don’t like to give things away  and I believe in being consistent, so: The first few chapters introduce you to the main points of the book, the Circus and then the character and The Challenge, it’s a nice opening and promises many things but these two main focuses are the point of my divergence when it comes to judging the book.

The circus you will love, it’s a place everyone wants to be, unless you have no soul that is.  It’s a stylish, magical setting and is superbly described, it’s a place we would all happily go and sulk when we have to leave, a place of wonder.  In fact I would go as far to say as it is a good starting place when badgering people to read more as it has everything you could want in a playground.

The most important part for me was the sense that I could never visit all of its attractions, there are always new things to see, the compelling use of colour is both discreet yet flamboyant in turn, everything is very lavish, even the dullness of the colour grey seems enticing.  The sense of mystery is always lurking in the shadows and the feeling that you will encounter something new and wonderful is constant. The best bit though is that all the senses are tantalised, it’s not just visual images, but smells, sounds, the tactile feel of the heavy curtains as you push through to enter the circus…

Having regressed to the wonder of a child within the circus,you then get the contrast in the outside world with the darker overtones and machinations of the plot which add spice and allow it to keep you rooted in both the sense of expectation and the enjoyment of something darker and more adult.

It’s with the plot that the book loses it however, after a good start, the characters do not seem particularly complex,  being that the book is plot driven this is fine but anyone who looks closely at the two main characters won’t find much in the way of hidden nuances.  If the characters were as well rounded as the setting in which they act their drama then this book would have been absolutely magical.

so all in all, I’m left with the sense of immense enjoyment at a book that didn’t thrill me plot wise like it promised to in the opening chapters,  if you can get past the overhyped nature and don’t expect to much from it, it will be an enjoyable read. it is for this that I am glad I do not employ a ratings system for my books, I always knew there was a reason.

It is worth pointing out as well that the film rights have been sold and this will likely be the ideal medium for it as a film won’t need to explore any subtle character complexities and can concentrate on being visual and extremely fancy in its special effects..


Posted by on 09/02/2013 in Fiction


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33 responses to “The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

  1. rynnasaryonnah

    09/02/2013 at 14:49

    I find that I’m always attracted to the red-white-black combo for book covers.


    • StetotheJ

      09/02/2013 at 14:52

      They do form a crisp contrast to each other, it always makes me judge a book by its cover, but I like breaking rules so it’s all good.


  2. Liz at Libro

    09/02/2013 at 15:26

    Very interesting – I gave a copy to my best friend Christmas 2011 (she often asks me for “some books” as a present – what a terrifying responsibility!) and my partner “read” it on audiobook recently. Both of them really enjoyed it, but I have no desire to read it, not even lured by the pretty cover …


    • StetotheJ

      09/02/2013 at 16:29

      A big responsibility but a fun one I think. Still each to their own with books, there are plenty to go around.


  3. LuAnn

    09/02/2013 at 16:05

    Ok, another that I might pass on. Having said that, you have already given me months, if not years, of reading enjoyment. Thanks Ste J. 🙂


    • StetotheJ

      09/02/2013 at 16:18

      I shall do a book more up your street next time, promise.


  4. Claire Ady

    10/02/2013 at 02:37

    I recently read and reviewed this too. and like you, I loved the circus, but was underwhelmed by the characters and story. isn’t it sad to read a book that just feels like it ought to be a film?


    • StetotheJ

      12/02/2013 at 15:51

      It is a rarity that the best version will probably be the film, the die hard book lover in me cringes at the very thought, having said that, once again we proved that great minds etc, etc.


      • wedincentralpark

        12/02/2013 at 15:59

        the sad thing is that I don’t think the film would be better. sometimes I feel like watching a film and sometimes I feel like reading a book. imagining that circus room of clouds would be much better than watching it on a screen. but when characters aren’t developed too much, to me, it just screams “I wrote this for a film deal, pleeease give me a film deal!”


        • StetotheJ

          12/02/2013 at 16:39

          Fair point, apparently it was the circus bit that she originally wrote and the plot got crafted around it, which isn’t that much of a surprise when you think about it.


  5. Claire 'Word by Word'

    10/02/2013 at 09:01

    Something of an enigma for sure, which requires input from the reader’s own imagination to get the most out of. I avoided this one for a long time due to the hype and was glad it didn’t totally spoil it as it is over-hyped, but I saved it for a light Christmas read and wasn’t disappointed.


    • StetotheJ

      12/02/2013 at 15:53

      A magical place for a magical time of year, if I had known of this book then it would have made me a little bot less Scrooge like. I hope to have better luck this year in that respect with some of Dickens’ festive stories.


  6. Alastair Savage

    10/02/2013 at 10:56

    I can really relate to this. These days I often pick up a book by a new author and I find the first couple of chapters absolutely enthralling. Then the quality drops off and the rest of the book is completely ordinary. I think it’s because publishers know that a great first chapter sells the book, so that part gets worked on much more than the rest of the novel.
    The cover is beautiful though. Isn’t it funny that just as the world of the paper book is dying, we are seeing better covers all the time?


    • StetotheJ

      12/02/2013 at 16:42

      Yeah, it is odd, having said that I judged this book by its cover and was only half right to do so, take that old traditional saying!!


  7. letizia

    10/02/2013 at 21:09

    I was so intrigued by your opening sentence and now am thinking of books I may have read where I’ve enjoyed the reading experience but the plot, when I looked back on it, was underwhelming. So interesting.

    Love the new look/colour of the blog, by the way!


    • StetotheJ

      12/02/2013 at 16:45

      I thought it looked a bit drab on the borders so went a little crazy on the brightness, the blue looked to deep and didn’t offset the yellow well. Strange considering I am colour blind really.

      The Road had an underwhelming plot I thought an it is strange how we get caught up in the enjoyment of a book only to then think of its actual lack of merits.


  8. quirkybooks

    11/02/2013 at 23:45

    That was an enticing book review. You should do a review on it for a magazine or newspaper and I am sure you would be able to get more people to buy it and get paid for your writing efforts. I have shared you review on my Facebook page


    • StetotheJ

      12/02/2013 at 16:48

      I am hoping to get into some sort of reviewing for various media, I shall probably create a few arguments on the way but that is all part of the fun. Thank you for sharing the post, it brought in a good few hits.


  9. RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book

    12/02/2013 at 15:23

    I looooooved The Night Circus because of the beautiful descriptions and details. But yes, as an overall story, it’s not going to shock or surprise you. I called it a beautiful read because the actual reading of the story is really amazing, but the storyline is a little less so.


    • StetotheJ

      12/02/2013 at 16:50

      It seems all the committed readers tend to judge it on many factors whereas part time readers, as it were, adore it for the most part. You are right though the experience of the circus is a sublime one.


      • RebeccaScaglione - Love at First Book

        12/02/2013 at 16:55

        I’m definitely a more committed reader, and normally a book without a major plot story line would drive me crazy but Erin Morgenstern performed some of her own magic with this one!


        • StetotheJ

          12/02/2013 at 17:00

          Yeah deceptive, mirrors and some smoke and rabbits in a hat. I did enjoy the book, my problem is I then spend ages dissecting everything, although I find that is half the fun.


  10. Bumba

    12/02/2013 at 22:22

    Conventional wisdom for a commercial hit is to write a good opening. The rest doesn’t matter much. Makes a good movie like you say.


    • StetotheJ

      13/02/2013 at 16:07

      Is there no art left these days!!! Present company excepted.


  11. 최다해 gongjumonica

    14/02/2013 at 07:15

    True to your word. Thanks for not giving any spoilers. I would love to read it and I am excited to stay in the circus even for a short while.

    Your last paragraph made me smile. That’s what a movie is now today – lots of visual effects without much content.


    • StetotheJ

      17/02/2013 at 19:16

      It’s a shame films so often replace the books, no visuals are superior to the minds eye.

      I hate spoilers (and like to get you to make the effort to read it), I am sure one day I shall bump into you marvelling at the circus’ wonders.


      • 최다해 gongjumonica

        19/02/2013 at 04:21

        True. I hope there will be film version of “choose your own adventure” where anyone can imagine what the movie will look like. That would be interesting.

        Now you are really making me curious. I just have to finish my reading obligations and Opal then I’ll go read that.

        Sure. You’ll bump into me and together we’ll perform flying trapeze. LOL


        • StetotheJ

          19/02/2013 at 17:21

          That would be an awesome movie, I loved those books, choosing your own unique movie would be great.

          I like making you curious, enticing you in, with our eyes maybe the trapeze is not the best for us. I’d be up for learning juggling though.


          • 최다해 gongjumonica

            20/02/2013 at 03:47

            Yeah and in 3D? Now, the effects can be much appreciated.

            Oops. I haven’t thought of that though I agree that you are right. Good luck juggling. As I told you, I have poor body coordination. Maybe I can’t even stand and balance myself over a ball.


            • StetotheJ

              22/02/2013 at 17:28

              That sounds good, I always thought of you as something of a contortionist getting into boxes and such like, I will juggle two balls I think, lion taming is right out!


  12. pennycoho

    03/03/2013 at 20:37

    This is a very well written review SteJ. Just well done. And one that would make people curious about picking it up and reading. You give nothing away but still engender one to be interested in potentials and perhapses. As far as reading goes. I enjoyed your words very much, also what you didn’t say.


    • StetotheJ

      03/03/2013 at 20:40

      I loathe giving away anything really, but it’s worse reading the back cover of a book and understanding half the book has just been ruined of suspense. It is a(nother) pet hate of mine.



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