28 November 2011
Post 452: The Night Circus
Morgenstern did something a little unusual in this book, and for some people it worked better than others. Rather than including all of the description in the narrative, she set aside somewhat introductory chapters each time a new part of the circus was going to be involved in the story. If the Cloud Maze was going to appear soon, Morgenstern would first give us a chapter in 2nd person, which allowed us to "explore" the circus without the interference of the story. Yet the story enriched the setting in the same way that a TV show about how candy is made might enrich the taste of the candy. You can enjoy one or the other independently, but knowing that it takes 500 pounds of sugar and a modified jet engine* to make your candy might make you appreciate it more. Whereas you might be interested in a show featuring said candy, it definitely helps if you are already invested.
So while the description chapters might have been slow or distracting for some, I viewed it more as a mirroring of how the Night Circus, or a circus in general, is set up. While the typical circus takes place under one tent and has multiple shows, the Night Circus takes place in many different tents. Yet both contain an element of exploration, allowing patrons to visit a variety of booths or view different shows, or at the very least focus on one element out of the chaos of clowns, acrobats, and motorcycles in flaming cages.
Taken altogether these elements are somewhat hard to keep track of. One could easily get lost if their eyes didn't focus on one point or another, or they decided to try to visit every single tent or carnival game. It might be possible, but much of the depth would be lost unless we allow ourselves to take some time, or accept that we will not be able to see everything. Meanwhile, Morgenstern wants us to see everything, and so she has divided things up for us into smaller, more easily digestible portions. We can have our cake and our ice cream and our candied apples and our marzipan and eat it too: the portions are just going to be meted out for us.
So while this conglomeration of vivid world building with loosely tied plot may not blend well on everyone's palate, it does at least afford the reader a chance to try a little bit of everything under the tent(s), and if you'd rather just sit down and watch the show, well, you can do that, but then you'd also miss out on the chaos.
Although I enjoyed this book much more than Nicole Bonia, her reivew at Linus's Blanket covers many of the strengths and weaknesses of The Night Circus.
LibsNote: Library copy via Overdrive Media.
*I am writing hyperbole, I don't actually know of a candy made this way. However, if you do, send it to me and I will eat it.