For the full experience, I recommend printing it out!
I’m going to start with a controversial statement: I love audiobooks. Not convinced? Let me run through some of my personal favorite attributes of said medium. 1) It’s a hands-free way to get through material. It allows you to multi-task while still getting the bulk of the plot and details. Need to bake a cake or set up a dinner party? Why not do that while learning about your favorite subject? 2) You can speed it up to 3x. For a procrastinator like me, this is a godsend. I find it works especially well if I can read along with the book. The combination of visual and auditory makes the facts and names stick in my brain. 3) It’s small and portable. Don’t get me wrong, I also love the tactile experience of books, but sometimes they are just too cumbersome to bring around with you. With audiobooks, you just need a smart phone and a pair of headphones (a staple in every college-student’s backpack), and you’re good to go! 4) Voice actors. Rather than reading it in your own voice, you get to experience the delight that is character voices. You start to recognize characters not by their names, but by their unique accent and dialect. I find it’s easier to become engrossed in the story when you can physically hear the characters’ “voices.”
Here is my second assertion: The Night Circusworks well as an audio book. If this rating had stars, I’d give it a three out of five on effectiveness. The overall ambiguity of the text paired well with the audiobook format, which lends itself to being easily forgotten. The forgetfulness simply added to the mystery. One specific detail that would have been helpful to know was the dates at the beginning of each chapter. I kept getting confused between the different time periods and sometimes missed the fact that the next scene was set 20 years prior. The fact that the book skips from time period to time period parallels the circular design of the circus and Marco and Celia’s relationship. Marco and Celia go round and round, never actually reaching the end of their “quest,” but simply passing off the duties to the next round of champions. Marco and Celia’s romantic tension is easily felt, but the amount of time they spend apart is lost in the details of the audiobook. What takes 50 years in the book feels like two minutes when you’re listening. In that way, some of the significance is lost.
Tl;dr: The Night Circuswas an exciting, provocative read. It keeps you on your toes until the very end, when the mystery of the novel is partially revealed. There are still a few plot holes, but as a work of fiction I think most readers are willing to overlook that. I would recommend reading it as an audiobook, if only for the experience of hearing the characters’ voices. If you’re looking to absorb every single detail, I would stick to the physical text instead. If you want a very biased list of reasons why I love audiobooks, scroll to the top.
Pierre was an interesting read, but not necessarily one I would recommend to my peers. I found the combination of listening to the audiobook and reading the book to be the most effective. In fact, I don’t think I could have made it through the book unless I listened to it. I would have been lost in the details.
Pierre was one of those reads where you are completely frustrated most of the time. I was grasping at every small clue Melville gave us as to whether or not Isabelle was actually Pierre’s sister. In a way, the ambiguity of the story was the only thing that kept me reading it. The overall plot was full of holes and fairly unbelievable. Would anyone really take an emotional letter declaring that they had a new sister seriously? Would you stake your entire livelihood on the word of a complete stranger, who can only remember vague details about her past, which happen to line up with your vague remembrances of your past?
I’d give this book a 2 out of 5, only because I enjoyed having to decipher the passages. It was almost like a puzzle. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone looking for a bit of light reading, or really anyone who enjoys a sound conclusion. Pierre leaves off abruptly and unsatisfyingly. Did I enjoy reading through it once? Yes, if only to say that I’ve read a bit more of Melville.