Friday, August 3, 2012

Last Week's Book: The Night Circus

Talk about a fun read, and my second plot-centred book in three weeks (Wizard's First Rule). Also have to love spending much of my 25th birthday reading, which you may have guessed by now is my favourite thing to do.

July 21-28: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Literature (2011 - 516 pp.) 

This is my second recent bestseller I've read for Book a Week, after The Hunger Games. I liked this one better. The Night Circus flows well, its 516 pages feeling oddly short. It's exactly what you'd expect from a description as a page-turner. 

Erin Morgenstern's descriptions are precisely what you'd want in a book like this. They're vivid enough to paint the picture in the reader's head without bogging anything down. In a denser book, I'd want a little more detail, but a fast-paced read like this couldn't hold any more. They are the highlight of The Night Circus. They make me want to touch the silk of Celia's chameleon-like gown or devour a caramel apple right now. Even more so, they make me want a map of the circus so I can see all the tents, but of course, part of the mystery is that not even the reader knows the identity and location of every exhibition. 

The Night Circus is extremely plot-focused with a secondary focus on setting. The modern dialogue contrasts with the late nineteenth- / early twentieth-century time period, which feels strange at first but is integral to the book's flow. Morgenstern intertwines her plots and subplots well, finding a place for every detail and cross-referencing to many different parts of the book. The interludes featuring what the circus might seem like to an attendee are nice too, especially considering that the bird's-eye view of the circus a performer may have is not at all what someone who isn't so invested in it sees. The closest comparison would be The Prestige, with The Night Circus passing enough of a resemblance to call them, say, the same subgenre. 

There are two primary issues I spot, one stylistic and the other in the content. The style issue is simply that comma splices are everywhere. It is common for a five-sentence paragraph to have four of its sentences contain comma splices, for example. This detracts from the flow of the book, as quick a read as this is. The content-related one is that the love story between the protagonists feels forced. Other than a few brief encounters, there is nothing to suggest their love would be as deep and as sincere as it apparently is. Their places opposite each other in the game would suggest otherwise. The awkwardly long ending could have been replaced with more mid-story character development here, especially when entire years in the 1890s blow by yet 1902 seems to take forever. A table of contents would have been nice too. 

Something my mom mentioned to me that I'd be inclined to agree with is how natural a movie The Night Circus would be. (My Prestige comparison above isn't accidental.) Done well, it could be that movie's equal; done not so well, it could be The Time Machine. It'd be fun to find out which. 

Thanks to my mom for the recommendation. 

Ease of Reading: 10 
Educational Content: 3

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