on July 27, 2012
I had many high expectations for this book but, unlike the circus that is so central to its existence, it did not perform. While the idea for the narrative itself was beguiling, the author did not do it justice. From the beginning I had trouble connecting to the story. Many of the descriptions I felt were just pretty words without any substance and I could not picture them in my mind. Many pages left me wondering if Morgenstern was simply writing to make things sound nice and not to bring the black-and-white circus to life beyond the monochrome of the book's pages. The characters were the same, often I felt they could be made more life-like and I did not find the love story to be believable. To put it bluntly, I did not care about the characters. Another disappointing aspect was story's pacing which was like that of a child's book. What stuck with me most about the book when I came to the final page, ending its "timeless tale of love", was this: an interesting concept without a heart.
on April 2, 2012
I'm afraid I don't quite agree with most of the reviewers here. Granted, the book's concept is magical and the circus does seem compelling at first. But I got tired of the slow pace of developments, and the jumping around of the timeline, and ultimately the writing style (which seemed designed to describe things beautifully but not actually reveal much).
Somewhere around the middle of this book I realized I didn't really care what happened to the two main characters, and I lost interest in making the effort to piece together what was really going on. The whole premise that was ruling their lives seemed a bit pathetic and I ended up feeling that the ending didn't really matter to me.
on October 20, 2011
This book was recommended to me by Amazon. After looking at the 5 or 6 ratings/reviews that raved about this book I bought it instantly. I feel somewhat torn in my overall opinion of the book. It was without a doubt a very unique idea and that is part of the reasons that i did like this book. The author does a fabulous job creating the circus and does in fact make you wish that it would come and visit your town! However, I found it increasingly frustrating as the book goes on. The dates for each chapter in the book seem to jump all over the place and I found it quite annoying to try and follow. This combined with so many questions surrounding the actual competition and some of the characters made it difficult for me to stay interested at certain points in the book. Sometimes when i picked it up i really enjoyed it and other times I could have set it right back down. I didn't particularly care for the ending.. I guess i was expecting more, but I absolutely adored the first chapter "Anticipation". After reading the entire book this is still my favourite part and the one thing keeping me from donating the book to the local library. I don't dislike the book but, but I don't think I will read it again (well, maybe the first chapter!! )
I do wish I had enjoyed it as much as everyone else on here seems to have.
on September 24, 2011
The story contained within this book is truly unique and I admit I appreciate it very much on that level. There are not many tales out there about an unusual competition in a quirky circus. It really is quite lovely. There are, however, some problems with the writing behind said story.
There are seemingly two stories occurring at close to the same time before finally completely overlapping one another. This is indicated by the dates which appear under the chapter headers, telling the reader what day, month and year the chapter will be set in as well as the location. This in and of itself should not be a problem, if handled properly, but the time-lines can become somewhat jumbled and at times even inconsistent.
Regarding the characters, most of them are very flat and one-dimensional. With others, it's almost as though the author was trying much too hard to make them mysterious or eccentric, with characters smiling slyly or uttering phrases such as, 'You will know in time.'
There's also the matter of having too many main characters inside of one book. When you write every character as some sort of lead, it then appears as though there is too much going on with having to focus on each one individually. In fact, most of the characters in this novel were leads and not supporting, which makes the fight for dominance a tad overwhelming.
The climax of the book, in contrast, is entirely underwhelming; it's not fully fleshed-out and even though there is an attempt to explain the reasons behind holding the competition (something which the writer needlessly convolutes when it should be something very simple to explain), this reader was left feeling that the point was rather, well...pointless.
The book is also, for a change of pace, written in the third-person narrative style with present tense. This doesn't occur too often in books and there's a reason why -- it's the most difficult to pull off and very few actually can. Aside from the fact that the story changes tense several times throughout the novel, it's also much harder to become immersed in the world the author has created, along with the language sometimes becoming quite limited (see below).
Now we're getting into actual language and structure. This is not the most poorly-written book out there, not by any means, though it suffers in several areas, the first being -- as mentioned in the title of this review -- laziness. There are far too many incomplete sentences, or sentence fragments, scattered throughout this novel. Here are some examples:
'She tells you facts you already knew. Information you might have guessed. Possibilities you cannot fathom.'
'Instead, and he is not entirely certain why, he keeps the subject alive. Bringing it up as often as possible. Pointing out that he could always go and return to the farm after the fact, that four years is not a terribly long time.'
In other instances, sentences are drawn out for far too long, commas separating what should certainly be two separate sentences. At the very least a semi-colon would have been more appropriate, if not an entirely new sentence. Examples:
'It's sort of all jumbled and I don't really like the red bit, when I saw it, it hurt my head.'
'That tree is rooted in the ground, it is a living tree even if it does not have leaves.'
Some of the language is overly repetitive at times as well. A lot of this has to do with the narrative/tense, which I previously mentioned. The dialogue is the worst offender, with each character ending off his/her sentence with 'he/she says' or 'he/she asks'. There are times when five or six pieces of dialogue in a row end in the same way, as displayed here:
'That's the Wishing Tree,' Isobel says. 'It's new.'
'I know it's new,' Marco says. 'Why didn't you tell me about it?'
'I haven't had time to write you,' Isobel says. 'And I wasn't even sure whether or not it was something you had done yourself. It seemed like something you might have made. It's lovely, the way wishes are added to it, by lighting candles with ones that are already lit and adding them to the branches. New wishes ignited by old wishes.'
'It's hers,' Marco says.
If the writer chose a different tense, it would have opened her up to a much wider array of options which can't be done otherwise.
Lastly, in the very last chapter of the book, there is reference to an e-mail address. I could have sworn the entire story took place before the internet. I have no idea how that slipped by the editing room.
To reiterate, the story is lovely, but the writing could use some tweaking.
** 1/2 out of *****
Note: Someone pointed out that it is possible the last chapter takes place in the technological era. This last chapter is one of several throughout the book which is told from a character's perspective (hence the third person narrative) as he tells a story to another man. In the previous chapter, it is stated that he is telling this story as of January, 1903. Being that the chapter indicating the e-mail address is part of a story being told in 1903, this is obviously a glaring error.