When I first read Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, in 2012, I wrote a Goodreads review outlining my thoughts on the novel itself. Though I have to take a moment to brag that this was in my time of being in the top 2% of reviewers on Goodreads, I chose not to return to the themes in that review because I feel like my literary tastes have changed in the last 7 years, and as I experienced the story in a different format this time, that of course, altered the experience of the story. As such, I will specifically discuss the Audible edition of the book, as narrated by the wonderful Jim Dale.
As a passionate advocate and lover of audiobooks, I was surprised to realize some crucial things about my literary self; firstly, that for academic purposes, I do not prefer audiobooks, secondly, I prefer audiobooks that I have read the print version multiple times, and thirdly, I don’t absorb audiobooks very well if I am doing anything other than driving by myself. I think these all relate back to the first point; when experiencing a novel for academia, my mind craves the physical appearance of the black print on the crisp page, the intangibility of sound is slightly stressful as I am afraid I will not recall the material as accurately.
However, objectively speaking, how is it to experience Erin Morgenstern’s novel through the velvet voice of Jim Dale? His narration of the story is mysteriously beautiful, tinged with ominous undercurrents. The language of the novel, is, in itself lyric in quality, leisurely lilting, and beautiful in sentence form, but, intriguingly, I found I felt differently about its tone coming from Jim Dale instead of my own interpretation. I read it as less mysterious and more cohesive. This partially goes back to my last experience with the book being physical, however. It was easy to flip back to the last portion with Bailey, for instance, to remind myself where we left off, to page through and compare the dates the story alternates between, and so forth.
As an audiobook, I would say it felt…busy. Not busy in a bad way necessarily, but in a way that asked immense focus from its consumer. The cast of characters was a bit large for an audiobook that skipped around in its own timeline quite so much, in my critical opinion, but I say this as a strong visual learner.
Jim Dale deserves all due applause for his performance, he incorporates different voices well, reads at a clear, measured, and lyrical pace, and, in a way becomes the story. From listening to many audiobooks, I have noticed that some narrators very much feel like they are reading off a script, but with Jim Dale, it feels very much as if he were just sitting down to tell you a beautiful story.
At the end of the day, I would recommend, if you are also listening to this for a class, read along with the narration—it will help to anchor the novel more. If, however, you are experiencing it, solely for fun, I would recommend lying back, closing your eyes, and allowing Jim Dale and Erin Morgenstern to take you on a beautiful immersive adventure through the Cirque de Rêves.