- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Fourth Estate; New Ed edition (5 Aug. 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1857028155
- ISBN-13: 978-1857028157
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 116,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Magician's Assistant Paperback – 5 Aug 2002
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From the Back Cover
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.
About the Author
Ann Patchett is originally from Los Angeles and is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of two earlier novels, The Patron Saint of Liars and Taft. She lives in Nashville and is the Tennessee Williams Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of the South.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Readers who like Anne Tyler's books will also like this.
A beautifully written book about grief and recovery told with a delicate wisdom and warm dry humour.
Fantastic characters that draw you into their ever evolving lives.
This is on my re-read shelf ( a high honour) and I will enjoy it again some dark winter weekend.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Given the title, I'd rather imagined something with a magic realist theme, so in that I was slightly disappointed. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Archy
A sensitive account of different manifestations of love. Ann Patchett's examination of relationships is well written and thought provoking.Published 9 months ago by paperback reader
Ann Patchett has performed a magic trick herself. I don't know what makes this book so special and such a pleasure to read. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Kath84
Read this for my book group and it was over all well received. Her style, being able to to paint clear and evocative descriptions in a concise way, was much appreciated by all.Published 24 months ago by Amazon Customer
A novel full of character and short of plot, which cleverly reveals the magician by pulling of the layers of an onion, each new layer revealing a new view point and making you... Read morePublished on 10 Oct. 2014 by Tom Douglas
This is the second Ann Patchett book I have read and I must read more. The Magicians Assistant has kept me enthralled.Published on 3 April 2014 by Brenda M. Worthington
The novel begins with the death of Parsifal, the magician of the title, with his ‘assistant’ and wife, Sabine by his side. Read morePublished on 2 Mar. 2014 by Christopher Sullivan
Ann Patchett's beautiful and very original third novel opens with the sudden death of Parsifal, a magician and exotic rug salesman. His wife Sabine is stunned with grief. Read morePublished on 25 Mar. 2013 by Kate Hopkins