Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book: The Magician's Assistant

Right. So this was so much better than I ever thought it would be. Maybe I think it's so good because I didn't have very high expectations, but I got so swept up in this deceptively simple book, I really, really hated it when it ended (see previous post). It made me soooooooo sad to close this book. Towards the end I actually started getting panicky: "There are only a few pages left in the book! Oh no, oh no! There's only five more pages left! This can't be true!"

I can't remember who it was who told me to read this book (Lara? Alex?) but THANK YOU. For some reason I didn't love Bel Canto (Ann Patchett's very famous book) so I wasn't really sold on this book. But now, I'm a believer.

The quick summary: The story opens as Sabine's husband, the magician Parsifal, has just died. He was a magician, and she was the assistant. They had worked together, been together, for 22 years. But here's the catch: Parsifal was gay. He had a true-love partner, Phan. Sabine chose to live her life with them because she loved them. Parsifal married Sabine because he wanted her to be his widow. It's as simple, and complicated, as that. But wait: there's more. A secret family. Slowly revealed childhood horrors. The layers peel back slowly, unexpectedly. Surprises where you least expect them. Things are not always as they seem.

The characters in this book simply enveloped me. Their stories, familiar and heartbreaking, felt very real. Their flaws were believeable. The slight twists and turns, like a car fishtailing in the snow, were surprising yet inevitable.

And of course, there is a very, very cute rabbit, Rabbit.

I don't know what to say to make you read this book, but Read This Book. Or not. But I think you will like it.

What broke my heart at the end was that an equally beautiful story was just beginning. A story that I was very, very interested in following. I guess, since the book begins with an ending, perhaps it's only right to end with a beginning... but oh, how I wanted to know more about that beginning, and the rest of that story. I want there to be a sequel, I want to know what happens!!

The things I could write about the book do not make it sound like a book I would want to read. "Set in sunny Los Angeles and freezing Nebraska..." "There's magic of all sorts in this tale... slights-of-hand, perhaps a bit of Real Magic..." "What did Sabine give up all those years to be with a man who couldn't love her the way she loved him?"

But they're all true, and they're all more wonderful than I would have guessed. Forgive me the obvious: It's exactly like going to a magic show, and thinking you'll be able to see how the magician did all the tricks, but in the end you are completely enraptured, carried away, caught up in the spell, and you never want it to end.

Now I have a problem. How to follow up this one? September, with the R.I.P. challenge, is right around the corner. Just a few more days. Do I sneak in one more book? How can anything compare to The Magician's Assistant, so close on its heels? I have a sort of throw-away read that might fit into the R.I.P. challege if it spills over into September, but I don't know. Maybe I will have to hit the library. My house is full of books and nothing I want to read.


Lesley said...

I've had this one on my shelf for a couple years now but have never read it. Thanks for putting this one back on my mind - and with such a glowing review.

Anonymous said...

So glad you loved that book - I knew you would. It's one of my absolute favorites (shout out to Vanessa who recommended it to me.) Have you read The Master Butcher's Singing Club? It's nothing like The Magician's Assistant, but for some reason I think you'd like it as a follow up. Or Alias Grace, another VeeBee rec that I love, love, loved.

We can chat about it on Sunday - yay



Alex said...

I don't know if I get credit for the recommendation, but I did love "MA." It's exactly what I love about fiction and also a good example of why I often don't like fiction. How's that for an enigmatic comment? (What I mean is, most fiction doesn't rise to that level.)

I'd say "Scorpio Rising" is a good chaser to that. The first chapter is weird, but after that it's quite something. The books remind me of one another, maybe because they are both Vanessa book club picks. They're also both very well written and do not conform to expectations.

Daphne said...

Lesley -- yes, read that book! It was so very good.

Lara -- thank you for recommending it to me again. I really did love it. I read Alias Grace and I LOVED it, it's one of my all-time favorites. I'll check out the butcher book. :)

Alex -- I really did enjoy this so much. I'll check out Scorpio Rising. Vanessa always has such good recommendations!

Nymeth said...

I wonder if this was an influence on Daniel Wallace's Mr Sebastian and The Negro Magician. Your post reminded me of it so much (and no, not because of the word "magician" :P).

Maybe it's one of those cases in which two authors independently come up with similar ideas...the world of magicians, the family secrets slowly unveiled, revelations that surprise yet make perfect sense, the story beginning with a scene that takes place at the end. It sounds like I really should read this one.

Daphne said...

Nymeth- Yes, you should! I think you would like it very much. I'll check out the Wallace book as well.