The Night Circus #questusreviewus – Luyang Jia

As audiobooks came on stage in the 1970s, the comparison between audiobooks and traditional books never ends. I was a firm supporter of traditional books but the experience of listening to The Night Circus swayed my mind.

The Night Circus is a book with numerous magical elements adding to the real world. After I tried both the audiobook and traditional reading, I was surprised to notice that the story I heard from the audiobook seemed to be more convincing and fascinating than the one I read online.

When I read the book, I felt the circus is isolated from the rest of the society and magical elements are split from the real world. Although the story has a clear time setting from 1873 to 1903 and location changes among London, New York, and Paris, these backgrounds are little developed. When the circus is traveling around the world, the author fails to include local customs or cultural features to differentiate these places and increase the sense of reality. Also, the author fails to connect the major events happened in the late 19th century to the story, which isolates the circus from the rest world. Science development and the Second Industrial Revolution are good covers to explain some magical elements and increase the sense of reality, but the author did not do that.

When I listened to the audiobook, these problems also happened. But the voice of an old man increases the story’s credibility and better integrates the magical elements with the real world. Use a 0.75 speed and listen to this book. It is like an elderly man is recalling his own story happened in his youth, or, he is telling some mysteries of his ancestors. I felt a sense of reality in the time setting. The aged voice made the story sound like an ancient and mysterious legend in the real world. If the audiobook could add some sound effects to differentiate the cities that the circus has traveled, the audience will have better experiences and the story will be more realistic.

Besides the background setting, the plot also seemed to be less realistic when I read it than I listened to it. During the reading process, I wish I am from the perspective of God, an omniscient God. So, I would feel unpleasant if many questions are unanswered at the end. The Night Circus does not tell me why Celia and Macro fall in love so quickly, why Hector and Mr. A.H. start this game and where they come from. These questions make the story become incomplete pieces and lack of credibility.

when I listened to the audiobook, I felt I was from the perspective of the aged man, who is telling a story of his own or the story of his ancestor. I would accept all the questions to remain unanswered since It makes sense if he cannot know all things from his perspective. Instead of losing credibility in traditional reading, these unanswered questions increase the sense of reality in the audiobook. It is less realistic if the aged man knows everything and tells the story from the perspective of God, isn’t it?

After the above comparison and analysis, I notice audiobook is more like a person-to-person conversation and may contribute unexpected benefits. For The Night Circus, the audiobook greatly compensates the sense of unreality in the traditional book, enhances the integration of magical elements realistic world, and makes the story more fascinating.