The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, won many critical reviews for its delicate phantasmagoria, with its thread of inevitable romance, growing up, and eventual independence. But it is a thin thread of plot. Apparently Morgenstern spend years working on it, but I think she got lost along the way in her creation..
I hated the book. The long loops into fantastical description and imagined magic seemed like puerile self-absorption. OK, she is young. But the characters were shallow, they were placed in an artificial book-long dilemma, and the whole book seems to rest on the black and white visuals that are key to the circus. They are just there…the black and white don’t mean anything, and many other interesting images introduced are also left hanging, with no use made of them for adding depth to anything. There was also a contrived-feeling construct of tension and conflict, but it felt extremely minor. I kept reading, I kept waiting, but nothing came through. I even felt no connection with Celia, the main character.
In 2011, Night Circus was put up for the Guardian First Book Award, and in 2012 won an Alex Award from the American Library Association. The novel also spent seven weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list..
I like to read current books and those that are garnering critical reviews, because I think I am tapping into the pulse of culture. All this book offered, and in hyperglycemic excess, was setting. I finished this one because it was part of our book club. Usually, an evening of discussion of a book raises my appreciation, no matter where it started. This week, no matter how hard we tried, I couldn’t get there.
I may have been able to put up with the excessive description and loops of fantasy and lack of plot if the book had given me that one thing…a character I cared about.
Where does this leave me after reading this with my book club? It is rare I find no redeeming value in a novel. One, to be a little more wary of the recommendations of others, even people I respect, as in this case. Two, to be a little less dogged in completing a novel I don’t like. This was not a homework assignment. Three, that nobody in our group cared that I hated it, and even enjoyed that I held a strong and differing opinion. Another reminder to get over myself. My own opinion–one’s own opinions–really are not that important. They are not the endpoint of anything, simply part of a social process.
Whether I liked The Night Circus or not, Morgenstern has added her rather nonlinear work to the public discourse.Whatever the form we use, such as letters to the editor to attending strata council meetings or PTA or teaching kids to forms such as art, we all contribute to public discourse. This shapes our world. Find your form, find your opinion, and express it.