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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Ann Patchett - The Magician’s Assistant

 reviewed on a recorded bookshow by Ro Bennett in Oct. 2013
I loved this book. It was unusual and an absolute page turner, I was riveted to the last page and sorry when it ended. 
This is the book description. 
 ‘The Magician’s Assistant’ is at once a love story and a brilliant portrayal of reinvention, about a magician who dies leaving his assistant/wife to discover he has lied about his past.
A magician (with one memorable appearance on the Johnny Carson Show to his credit) takes the name Parsifal. He is gay. He has a Vietnamese lover, Phan. When Phan dies of AIDS, Parsifal marries the woman who has always adored him and who has lived with them both, his assistant Sabine.
Then Parsifal himself dies in California, suddenly and shockingly, of an aneurysm. Parsifal always said that he had no living family and that he came from wealthy upscale Connecticut stock. The reality is very different, as Sabine learns from his lawyer. He came from a poor Nebraska family and they are very much alive. Indeed his mother and sister are on their way to California to meet Sabine, the daughter- and sister-in-law they know nothing about. It is bad that her husband has died. What Sabine must now cope with is coming to terms with his horrific past and the reason he divorced himself from his family and roots. I think that was a pretty badly written blurb for what was such an excellent book. 
I really felt drawn into this book and the characters. I felt I knew the characters most of whom I found very likeable. I could picture the locations - Los Angeles and Nebraska. The descriptions of Nebraska were such that it was as though I was actually there and could feel the bone piercing cold. I’ve decided that it’s a place I would never want to visit in the winter! 
I don’t want to reveal anything about the plot, it would spoil it If you intend to read it  - the less you know the better, just read the book and watch how it unfolds. It’s an excellent portrait of grief and recovery, family interactions and life in a small town. It’s an unusual subject - magic and illusion is not something I would expect to be interested in, but I found it intriguing - the insights into professional conjuring will ensure that I will  regard magicians' assistants with much greater respect in future. 
I was intrigued as to what could have happened to make Parsifal who seemed a lovely caring man pretend he had no family and cut himself off from them so completely. The story twists and turns and just as you think you’ve understood a situation or a character, something else crops up to make you rethink. Just like magic tricks you puzzle over how to interpret people and events accurately - what is real and what is illusion? The book was imaginative, moving, original and evocative and I certainly intend to read more of her work

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