The Night Circus is a book that wanted so badly to be great but never quite got there. In fact, I wanted it to be great. I wanted Ray Bradbury—phantasmagorical, reality imbued with fantasy, seemingly effortless profundity. Alas, The Night Circus is not that book, no matter how hard it tried.
The book's imagery is at times
striking, even evocative, but the story lacks consistency. Centering
around a competition or duel established at the beginning of the book,
the story meanders from scene to scene only occasionally addressing the
central plot element. Yet, as if remembering why words were being put to
paper, the author quickly and somewhat clumsily re-focuses the
narrative during the last quarter of the book. As the story comes to a
conclusion and as the characters find their closure, the overarching
meanings feel a bit obtuse, and I was left wondering what the real
purpose was and why I should care. (I had similar feelings after
completing The Westing Game).
I have a propensity to enjoy books
like The Night Circus. Something Wicked This Way Comes, for example, is
one of my favorite books. I love stories that embrace
hyper-reality—facts colliding gently and sometimes harshly with fiction.
The Prestige is another example of a book and eventual film—yet another
one dealing with magic and entertainment—that embraces fact and fiction
and interweaves them together. The Night Circus in some ways does a
wonderful job of cradling reality and fantasy, but it stumbles in other
Having said all of that, The Night Circus does have a
menagerie of interesting characters. The magical pull of the circus can
be felt through the book's pages. It's a place I'd like to visit, to be,
to experience. Mystery permeates basically every page of the book,
albeit the resolution is inadequate. The book excels in its exhibition
of imagination. Like any good fantasy, the new sights, sounds, and
smells should intrigue and capture the reader. The Night Circus at times
I wish there was more to recommend The Night Circus; yet, I feel the book is more feigned style than it is genuine
substance. As a concept, the story has a lot for me to love, and
visually I think a talented filmmaker could do something pretty special.
The Night Circus frequently skirts the edge of greatness but never
actually crosses the line. It's a shame because I really, really wanted it to.
Other Topics of Interest:
Reflections: The Westing Game
Ray Bradbury & Me
Books to Movies: The Prestige