The Night Circus

The Night Circus

By Erin Morgenstern

5/7 stars

[mild spoilers]

This is the third time I have read The Night Circus. The first time I read it, I loved it. The second time, all I could see were the plot holes. This time I had a more tempered view of both sides. Imagine a very charming and attractive woman. You feel like you want to get to know her. Unfortunately, the more you talk to her, the more you realize that there is very little happening upstairs. That’s kind of like this book. Let me explain.

All of the surface elements of this book are wonderful. There is a fairy like quality to the tone that fits well with the story. This is especially true of the descriptions of the circus itself. You feel as though you’ve been transported to another realm. This is further enhanced by the achronological plotline. One of the stated goals of the circus is to be “dreamlike”, and the writing certainly accomplishes that.

Most of the characters are equally delightful to read about. Morgenstern created complex characters who revealed more of themselves as time went on. The reader finds out more about the personalities, motivations, and in some cases backstories of the characters throughout the plot, giving it a sense of depth. The main problem with this is while does teach you about the characters, few of them actually have any real growth. Even the three characters who are children don’t really change much through the course of the story. They get stronger in their respective powers and abilities, but they don’t alter as people.

The plot itself was pretty well fine, up until the end. Everything in the book leads you to believe that you are headed for a tragic ending for at least one of the main characters, if not both. By the way, this does not change upon re-reading. Instead, there is a happy ending. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with a happy ending. What I do have a problem with is an inappropriate ending for the story. Nearly every character goes through a quite a lot of psychological pain throughout the book. All but three characters get a happy ending to their storyline. In fact, some of them don’t even recall their suffering. By doing this, Morgenstern renders their entire story invalid. Characters should change and grow from their experiences and the ending should reflect that. A “loophole” happy ending kind of makes me sad. The tragedy would have been beautiful and touching. As it is, I feel cheated.

All in all, I would recommend this book. Its pros outweigh the cons and if you can make peace with the ending,  it is indeed a charming read.

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