Welcome to April book club, chicas! (All book club details can be found here.)
(If you link up I'd love you to slap this image on your post somewhere. Please and thank you!)
2014 Book Club Schedule:
April: Night Circus by Eric Morgenstern (April 24)
May: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (May 29)
June: Matilda by Roald Dahl (June 26)
July: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (July 24)
August: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan (August 28)
September: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (September 25)
October: Z by Therese Ann Fowler (October 23)
November: Wonder by R.J. Palacio (November 20)
December: My Story by Elizabeth Smart (December 30)
BOOK CLUB QUESTIONS
+ Who is your favorite character in the novel and why?
+ What about the main romantic relationship (Celia and Marco) did you like or not like?
+ Did you like the writing style? Why or why not?
+ What is the significance of Celia's and Marco's relationships with their father figures? (Hector and Alexander) In what ways are these relationships healthy or unhealthy?
+ Anything else you want to say, add, admit, confess? Now's your time to shine!
You guys I don't know what's wrong with me. I haven't loved any of the books we have read for book club in 2014. I'm sorry! I had such high hopes for Night Circus and went in wanting so badly to like it. But I just couldn't. I know a lot of you love it, and I feel like I need to sincerely apologize to you for not liking it. I am starting to feel like this book club is one big epic fail. Let's see, I tell you all I love to read, make you all read a bunch of books with me, and then tell you why I hate every single book we read. I'm the worst!
WRITING STYLE There were some things I did like about the book, so let's start with those. I think Morgenstern is a terrific writer. It definitely blew the writing in Divergent or I am Malala out of the water. The writing was lyrical and at some points even felt like poetry. It felt good to read something again that was truly well written.
That being said, the pace was SO slow. While I did enjoy her writing, there were so many things she wrote about that were just totally unnecessary to me. I felt like the reading got bogged down in these tiny details that didn't matter. Sometimes I felt like Morgenstern was trying so hard to write beautifully that she was sacrificing plot. The pace was terribly off... it moved so slowly with very few events actually happening.
Sometimes I tease my students that they can't read anything if it's not more than 160 characters. We live in a twitter universe where everything has to be condensed, shortened, easily digestible. So part of me feels really bad for wanting this book to move quicker- like maybe I should've just slowed down and enjoyed it and just let all that beautiful imagery seep into my bones. But I couldn't do it. There just wasn't enough of a plot behind it to keep me really interested so I ended up skimming parts with too much detail.
BAILEY The other part of the plot I really liked was Bailey. Maybe he was the only part of the book I really understood? With all the other characters I felt like I was constantly supposed to be understanding all these nuances and balancing tricks of theirs, but Bailey was just a normal kid. I loved loved what Celia said at the end when she asks Bailey to take the circus: "You're not destined or chosen... You're in the right place at the right time, and you care enough to do what needs to be done. Sometimes that's enough." I guess I have grown a bit weary of books and movies where someone is "chosen" and must live up to his destiny... I like the idea that so much about greatness is just being where you need to be and caring enough to get it done. I suppose it takes away some of the "magic" of being great, but to me it makes it more real because it's obtainable for anyone. It becomes more a matter of willingness and choice, not predestination. I especially liked the bit about him caring enough to do it. It made me think about how many great opportunities I can have and will have in my life simply by caring enough to act.
CELIA + MARCO I suppose I'm a hopeless romantic, and I always love a good love story. This one just didn't do it for me. The kiss in the ballroom was stunning, but that was really the only thing that really impressed me. The relationship didn't feel developed enough for me to care who won in the end. It was rushed and sloppy.
TOO VAGUE I will be the first to admit that I have a hard time reading science fiction or fantasy novels. I am too much of a realist, so I take all of the fun out of those books. I can enjoy fantasy however, if it is extremely well done. For me to enjoy fantasy, there still has to be rules within the fantasy and everything has to make sense, even in a world that is impossible. For example, Harry Potter. Everything in that book makes sense. There is a system for everything. There are spells and potions, and you have to learn the spells and there's a school you go to to learn spells. It isn't just random, unexplained magic. Which is what I felt like all the magic in this book was. Why could Poppet erase Chandresh's memory at the end of the book? Never explained it. Why was Marco able to make some random bonfire that somehow controlled the whole circus? Never explained it. Why did Isobel keep the balance of the circus going- what was her role in all of it? Never explained it. This was beyond frustrating to me, to the point where I wanted to quit. I don't think an author should be able to get away with making up a world that is not clearly explained to us.
Another thing that drove me crazy was how she'd use descriptors to describe people instead of their name. "The man in the grey suit" "The girl with the red hair" "The illusionist." For pages and pages she would do this, as if adding some great mystery by not saying their name. Mostly it just confused me as there were already a lot of names to remember and I was having a hard time keeping straight in my head who was who without having to remember their stupid descriptor phrase.
"THE GAME" I felt the same way with "the game" as I did with the book in general- just way too vague. I didn't even know what I was reading about. There was no clearly explained moves, no clearly explained rules, etc. I get that the game was supposed to be like that, but to me that was a weak choice on the author's part. It didn't give readers something concrete enough to grasp on to. The entire time I was reading I felt like I was frantically trying to grasp onto this very hazy idea, never clearly seeing or understanding where it was going. That is a very frustrating way to read a book.
Several times during the book someone asks for an explanation of the game. When Bailey asks Tsukiko she replies, "That is somewhat difficult to explain. It is a long and complicated story." I felt like this was the answer that was given for the entirety of the book! An author can only get away with that for so long before she has to explain to readers what is going on. I never really felt like Morgenstern did this. Part of me wonders if she herself knows what the game is or what it actually entails. What are the moves? Suddenly there's an ice garden? That's a move? The game doesn't end until someone dies? How is someone going to die by making ice gardens or a carousel? And what if the two contenders just refuse to play? It never explained why they were forced to do the game... Why couldn't they just stay in the circus as lovers and ignore it? Couldn't they just live out their lives (Which are longer than normal lives? They don't age? It never explained this either.) as normal and forget about the contest?
OTHER UNEXPLAINED THINGS What did Isobel have to do with anything? I kept trying to figure out why she was in the story, and it never made sense to me. She had something to do with the "balance" of the circus, but what, I have no idea. What was Marco always writing down in his books? Why did Celia have control of the circus at the end of the book... everything was weighing on her? Did Celia and Marco end up as ghosts then? Trapped inside the circus?
Okay, I am seriously sorry. I wish I liked this book more, and I would love to hear your reasons why you enjoyed the book, or what you found enchanting or magical about it. (It's gotten terrific reviews, so I'm clearly in the minority.) I don't know why I can't just sit down and enjoy a book lately. I need to shoo my inner critic away because I'm obviously way too harsh. Either that, or I need to start making money from being a book reviewer.
Can't wait to read your comments! Leave them below and if you wrote your own post make sure to link up! I am looking forward to reading all the reasons why you loved this book! :)