Contributor Book Review of ‘The Night Circus’

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Review by: Jamie Gogocha

Warning: This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.


My first introduction to Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel, The Night Circus, came from the Goodreads synopsis: “The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night…”

The more I looked into this book, the more excited I became to read it. I was on a short library hold list for a book that would give me a unique story about a competition within a circus. The story had elements of historical fiction, magical realism, drama, and romance. Add a whisper of the paranormal (which was present and unexpected) and a Victorian setting (of which this was in the latter part), and I’m one happy reader.

As I looked over the jacket once the book was in my hand, the story sounded interesting, but I was in no way prepared for the beautiful language Morgenstern weaves like a master writer. I wandered through the story mesmerized, handed from one page to the next as though they were tour guides leading me through Le Cirque des Rêves. Erin Morgenstern doesn’t just use the story’s words as a vehicle to tell her story; she uses them to invite the readers to the circus and make them feel everything the circus has to offer. One example of the novel’s phenomenal language occurs on page 303: “Most of the passenger cars are lined with thick patterned carpets, upholstered in velvets in burgundies and violets and creams as they though they have been dipped in a sunset, hovering at twilight and holding onto the colors before they fade to midnight and stars.”

The structure of this story used the technique of sporadically breaking it up. There are single pages leading the reader’s experience though the circus. Each chapter is set in a city, month, and year. Sometimes the month and year are after the previous one, sometimes before. Until I figured out this nonlinear style, I found myself lost on occasion—as though I stepped off of the circus ground’s winding path. However, I eventually found my way again and was able to continue on with the story.

My main, and nearly only, complaint with the book is the pace. It is extremely slow up until the end. Normally I find it difficult to hang in there with a story that moves as slowly, but the magnificent language kept me turning the pages. Toward the end of the story, Morgenstern hits the accelerator and the story starts moving at an almost frantic, desperate pace. That change was fitting for some events that transpire.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about magic, intrigue, and adventure. The Night Circus is one book I plan on buying because I feel like there are elements or passages I missed that will open me up to different pieces of a fantastical world.

You can purchase Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus here.

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