The Night Circus Erin Morgenstern
Erin Morgenstern

Book Nerd Musings: Reacting to Negative Reviews of Favourite Books

I read a post over @Book Princess Reviews, one of my favourite book blogs, where Mandy and Sha reacted to negative reviews of some of their favourite books. And thought, “damn, why didn’t I think of that first?!” I think they actually found the idea someplace else as well. But whoever thought of it first, it is, possibly, a small stroke of genius… So, I’m pinching it!

I love reading reviews which contradict my point of view. Maybe that’s strange… But I think it’s interesting to see the other side of something, look at things from another point of view. And I find that, sometimes, it actually gives me a deeper understanding of a book. The lesson, if anyone cares to find one, is that diversity of opinion is valuable. We don’t all think the same. We’re all different. And that, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is a good thing.

Or, I’m just an argumentative b***h. What you gon’ do, right?

A Book I Loved…

The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern | Publisher: Vintage

I adored everything about The Night Circus. I thought the writing was beautiful, the plot was masterfully crafted, it had great mystery and suspense, I connected with the characters, and the setting was magical. You can read my review here.

That being said, I know that it was a love it or hate it book for a lot of readers and reviewers. So, I hopped right on over to Goodreads to find someone who disagreed with me. So I could rip their opinion apart… Just kidding! So I can see the book from a new perspective… Obviously. Not that much of a b***h!

Someone else’s Goodreads review…

The Night Circus will be a 5-star book for a certain reader. This reader likes a lot of descriptions, doesn’t mind a very slow story and has a soft spot for circuses. I am not that reader. I prefer imagery to complement a plot rather than substitute it.

The plot summary of The Night Circus promised many enticing things, but delivered, in my opinion, only on one – lush imagery of a mysterious circus that was a collaborative creation of two rivaling magicians. The book was good 80% description of various circus tents, performances, dinners and pretty, visual acts of magic. I did enjoy it for the first 40 pages or so, but it got old very, very quickly. It got tiresome, it felt indulgent.

The remaining 20% were dedicated to: a battle between the two magicians that consisted of… making up pretty things to impress each other (yes, you read that right, no actual combating of any sorts in this “fierce competition”) and a lukewarm romance that came out of the magicians’ fascination with each other’s creations from a distance, rather than interacting in any meaningful way.

My resulting disappointment with the novel had also a lot to do with the writing style – Morgenstern chose to write in present tense, 3rd person. It worked well for describing imagery, but made the narrative distant, detached and the characters – unrelatable and flat.

To be honest, I am not sure if The Night Circus can even make a decent movie (the rights were bought by Summit). There was not much drama there or action, the story was anti-climactic, the love was dull and the magic was only vaguely defined and seemed to have no rules and limitations.

I am thoroughly puzzled by the book’s comparisons to Harry Potter.

Penny for them…

I don’t actually disagree everything in with this review… I think the things the reviewer didn’t enjoy, or which didn’t work for them, just did work for me. I still love The Night Circus… But I can see the reviewer’s point on a lot of things.

Firstly, I do have a soft spot for circuses. They’re right about that. If you like the circus, this is a fantastic book! I think they must remind me of childhood or something – which is odd, because we really didn’t spend a whole lot of time at the circus. Does anyone? But I like a circus. I also thought it made for a magical setting. It already has an in-built sense of theatre. A certain magical, whimsical quality. I found it pleasantly unusual… A bit different…

I also do enjoy strong descriptive prose. I would agree that description without plot would get boring really, really fast. I just didn’t find that to be the case with The Night Circus. I thought the plot was intense, if anything. I think this reviewer perhaps just didn’t connect with it, or with the characters; as they go on to say, they found the writing-style off-putting. I think that was the larger problem for them here. And I get that. It was unusual. I liked it, but I can see how it could leave the reader feeling detached from the narrative and some wouldn’t enjoy it.

The synopsis of the plot on the book jacket, I will also grant you, is a little misleading. However, I think The Night Circus really delivered in a lot of ways! The romance… The history… The magic… The tragedy… The lush setting… And I thought the magic was very well-defined. I didn’t find the story anti-climactic at all; I finished the book with a big, fat sigh of satisfaction. Though, I can see why the ending might have left some readers disappointed… I didn’t have that experience, but I can see the reviewer’s point.

I also share this reviewer’s frustration with people comparing books to Harry Potter. It seems like any book with even the vaguest hint of magic is being hailed as “the next Harry Potter” nowadays. And, honestly, they never are – it’s just irritating. The book jacket for Rivers of London said the exact same thing and it was f**k all like Harry Potter. Ridiculous…


8 thoughts on “Book Nerd Musings: Reacting to Negative Reviews of Favourite Books”

  1. I haven’t read the Night Circus, but I love your premise that even someone you disagree with you can learn from. I love reading opposite reviews for books I’ve read, seeing what I may have missed. More commonly, I do it with a book I disliked, to see that maybe I was too judgmental on the book or there were some good aspects I missed. It helps me understand things from a different perspective. So I love your idea of reading reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve heard polarizing thoughts on The Night Circus too! Partly why I still haven’t picked it up, haha. Isn’t it a weight off the shoulders to say your piece to negative reviews though? Whether you fully disagree or can see some of the points… great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Really fun post to do! I’m in the same boat as you, cos I like descriptive writing. And I also just hate when people compare books to Harry Potter- it’s always frustrating (same goes for saying it’s the next Hunger games or whatever!)

    Liked by 1 person

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