I really thought I’d like The Night Circus, and I did, to a certain extent. I just couldn’t get through it. First of all, I’m bad at pop fiction. That’s usually because of those authors’ horrible style. Erin Morgenstern‘s style isn’t nearly as bad as Charlaine Harris‘s, for example. (Note: I use Charlaine Harris as an example of the worst kind of writing.) I think that the main reason that I couldn’t finish it is that it’s written in present tense, which, for whatever reason, I find incredibly distracting. I wanted The Night Circus to be something like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel, which I loved, but it’s not. It is about two dueling magicians in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but it’s also a love story. And the present tense. At the beginnings of sections of chapters, she even uses second-person POV, which is interesting. Those parts work because they’re short: it’s like you’re experiencing the circus for yourself, and it’s a magnificent one. I just couldn’t get beyond the present tense. And the story seems to go on forever. It’s slow in some of the same ways that Jonathan Strange can seem, but Jonathan Strange kept my attention – and it’s twice as long as The Night Circus.
Part of it, too, was that I knew I didn’t really have time to finish it. I got to the halfway point very slowly because of various things going on right now (moving!), and I absolutely have to be book-free tomorrow morning because my very favorite author, Haruki Murakami, has a new book coming out tomorrow, 1Q84, which I must begin reading as soon as it pops onto my Kindle. Or my head will explode, or something.
So: it’s not that The Night Circus is a bad novel – in fact, I think it’s a pretty good one – it’s that the style doesn’t fit my personal preference, and I started reading it without figuring out how long it is first. I’d still recommend it if you really liked Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.