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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just beautiful
On one level, this is an incredibly simple book. Sabine has been the magician Parsifal's assistant for twenty years. After his death, she discovers a family she never knew he had, and they piece together the truth about the man.

Once we discover what some of that truth is, however, we begin to see a more complex situation. Parsifal was married to Sabine, but...
Published on 11 Aug 2007 by S. Bailey

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Something unexpected
This book has a bit of an unsettling feel to it, but nonetheless, the further I got into it, I did feel compelled to continue reading. It's a quiet book, about grief and love and family. It doesn't have the warmth of 'Bel Canto' and I didn't completely take to any of the characters; but the novel's strength is that you don't know from the beginning where the story will...
Published on 22 Jun 2012 by neverendings


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just beautiful, 11 Aug 2007
By 
S. Bailey "will work for books" (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Magician's Assistant (Paperback)
On one level, this is an incredibly simple book. Sabine has been the magician Parsifal's assistant for twenty years. After his death, she discovers a family she never knew he had, and they piece together the truth about the man.

Once we discover what some of that truth is, however, we begin to see a more complex situation. Parsifal was married to Sabine, but the two of them lived with Phan, Parsifal's gay, true lover. Guy, the boy his family knew, was instrumental the death of his father. And so it goes on: Sabine, Dot Fetters the mother and Kitty and Bertie the sisters, each adding to the picture and discovering new ways of looking at the man they had loved.

Criticism has been made of this book for its lack of plot, and if big plot is what you are looking for, you had better look elsewhere. This book is about character, about truth and the nature of love; you might think you were looking at an illusion, and then find that you were looking in a mirror instead. As any magician knows, the truth revealed has no impact until the illusion has been well set-up, but the set-up may be a slow and subtle process. That is what this book is about.

I want particularly to mention Patchett's perfect translation to the page of the too-large physicality and grunting non-verbal communication of Kitty's adolescent sons. Witty, literate adolescents are one thing to write, but these rather more realistic ones are a real achievement. Her writing goes beyond words.

Definitely recommended, and responsible, like I needed it, for adding another author to my "get everything she's ever written" list.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars She was the other woman in her own marriage, 4 Mar 2009
By 
Clever Spud (Birmingham) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Magician's Assistant (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First I want to get something off my chest. When I selected this book the blurb advertising it suggested it was going to be a very diferent read to what it turned out to be. Ultimately I'm glad I got it but the original Amazon write-up made it seem like a fantasy novel. However even that original blurb would be preferable to the current Amazon write-up, which is a bit too spoilery for my tastes.

Sabine's long term showbusiness partner and sometime husband, Parsifal, has died, following almost on the heels of the death of Parsifal's true love, Phan, who happens to be a bloke. Sabine is left feeling empty and desolate in their LA home but is still faced with the task of tidying up Parsifal's financial matters. It's then that she discovers his family, who he claimed were dead, are in fact alive and well, living in Nebraska.

And that's about as much of the plot as I'm giving away because it's a delicate thing which is best left to unfold in its own time, like the blooming of a rare orchid.

All the sleight of hand and illusion allusions have been used up already but they hit the nail on the head. Part of the charm of this book is the way it leads you in one direction, making you think you have the measure of a character, then bam! you realise you were wrong all along. It's not overdone and there's more to it than just that. There's some very clever subtle writing throughout that left me thinking about certain passages long after I'd finished them. I actually had to leave it several days before writing this review because I was still getting scenes straight in my head.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to people who enjoy character driven fiction, though the focus here is primarily on Sabine herself with only a few of the other characters being fleshed out. I was left feeling that a couple of the people who're central to the story don't become fully rounded but that's such a little thing overall.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enchanting book - one I could not put down!, 22 Nov 1998
By A Customer
I decided to work my way through the shortlist for the 1998 Orange Prize for Fiction. I had not read anything by any of the shortlisted authors and purely by chance read this one first. I really enjoyed it.
It has a good storyline. The main character is Sabine: wife, but not lover, to the now dead magician Parsifal. The story tells of her coming to terms with her grief for the man she loved, by rediscovering him through contact with the mother and sisters he had hidden from everyone. The contrast between Sabine's life in Los Angeles with Parsifal and his lover Phan to that of his family home in Nebraska is stark and dramatic. However, it is in the frozen Nebraska winter amidst a loving, admiring family that she finds insight into Guy, the loving son who left to become Parsifal and who drew closed a door on a violent domestic past and stepped away to realize dreams and a new life in LA.
This book deals with some awful things - Aids, family violence, and murder. But it does so in an accessible, tender way in the context of tales of love in all its forms ( of love between mother and son, sister and brother, Parsifal and Phan, Parsifal and Sabine).
The most thought provoking issue it raises is that of exclusion. The main exclusion being that of Sabine from knowledge of her husband's past - how many of us think we know all there is to know about our partners? It touches on other exclusions - primarily of homosexual Guy from butch Nebraska, but also of Assistants from the Magic Circle (Sabine), of Jews from Poland (Sabine's parents), of Phan from his native Vietnam.
Plenty subjects here for a good book discussion group to get their tongues round. Have no illusions - an enchanting book, one I could not put down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Written, 6 Oct 2009
By 
Susan Creed (Brittany, France) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Magician's Assistant (Paperback)
I am just coming to the end of The Magician's Assistant and will be very sad indeed when I arrive. Some may say that I am foolish to write a review without knowing how the book ends, but they would be wrong; no matter how it ends, I would not have missed the pleasure of reading Ms Patchett's lovely prose. The story itself leads to self-examination, and the development of the main character as the pages turn is a real treat. Highly recommended.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and surprising, 27 Aug 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Magician's Assistant (Paperback)
The less you know about the plot of this novel the better. Let the story unfold from page to page and I think you will be as enchanted as I was. The characters are so real and mostly likeable, and the settings, particularly Nebraska, are evocative. It also has some funny parts (especially the plane journey) and the details about magic are enthralling. Before I had even finished it I was wondering how soon I could read it again!
Readers who like Anne Tyler's books will also like this.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Subtle & Enjoyable Read, 12 Aug 2003
This review is from: The Magician's Assistant (Paperback)
I came to this book because I'd enjoyed Bel Canto so much, and was surprised by the back cover description which made it sound as though it was going to be almost a fantasy novel. I did keep on expecting the book to leap into high magic, and in a way it did. There's an element of the familiar in it - like Jane Smiley and Ann Tyler, documenting mid-west, mid-nowhere America, but she also plays some superb wild cards that do tip the balance out of reality for odd moments. There are strange dream-world insights and conversations, and there is a bit of the supernatural too, although this stays in the realm of card tricks that are REAL rather than tricks. All in all these add up to a captivating read and the effect is, yes, magical. The characters are stunningly realised, not a wooden or 2D one among them, but Simone Parsifal - the magician's assistant herself - is a stellar creation: guileless without being naive, traumatised without being schmaltzy, and vividly, vividly alive. I could go on - but simply, I am very, very impressed by this novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual and enjoyable, 19 Sep 2009
By 
Mr. N. Daws (Staffordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Magician's Assistant (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I enjoyed reading this novel. It is based around the platonic love affair between a gay male magician, Parsifal, and his heterosexual female assistant, Sabine, through whose eyes the story is told.

The story begins with the magician's death, and follows Sabine as she picks up the pieces of her life and finally gets to meet and start to understand Parsifal's estranged family. In the course of this, which involves a journey from her luxury home in Los Angeles to the frozen wastes of Nebraska, she starts to understand herself a bit better as well.

I particularly enjoyed the insights into professional conjuring in the book. I shall certainly regard magicians' assistants with much greater respect in future.

I did find the ending rather frustrating and inconclusive. The blurb refers to Sabine discovering magical powers that may help her find the love she has always been denied, but I don't really understand what is meant by this. Although Sabine does rediscover her skills as a conjurer in her own right, no alternative romantic interest appears to be on the horizon for her! Indeed, the 'magic realism' ending leaves so many loose ends I wonder if the author intended to leave room for a sequel (though as far as I know this hasn't happened).

Overall, then, an unusual and enjoyable novel, with some vividly drawn and beguiling characters, though for me spoiled slightly by the unsatisfactory conclusion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Novel, 7 Sep 2009
By 
J. P. Ellison "jpellison" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Magician's Assistant (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Ann Patchett has added herself to a list of authors that I am now 'following' thanks to this novel, and there can be no higher praise than that. She draws her characters beautifully, and I felt a lot of empathy for the Magician's assistant and his particular predicament.

Enthralling, exciting, page-turner. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving and surprising, 17 Feb 2009
By 
Mr. Nadim Bakhshov "Nadim Bakhshov" (Bloomsbury, London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Magician's Assistant (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A moving and surprising story which draws the US - from LA to Nebraska, in a beautiful light. The main character, Sabine takes you through the story and allows the plot to unfold gradually and gently. The descriptions about magic are fascinating and Ann Patchett draws her scenes beautifully - small details give real life to the novel.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A completely magical book, 19 April 2008
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This review is from: The Magician's Assistant (Paperback)
I first read this book as a teenager. I was moved then. I read the book again more recently & I was moved again. I can honestly say that this is one of the best books I have ever read. Its a definite recommend!!
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The Magician's Assistant
The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett (Paperback - 5 Aug 2002)
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