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Brian Moore: The Magician’s Wife

#3 in the list of books that have been sitting on my bookshelf for too long.

I bought this a while ago and I can see why: it has lots of positive blurbs. Yet the reviews on Amazon are pretty mixed (average of 3.5 stars). Who’s right? In this case I agree with the Amazon customers.

This is a historical novel taking place largely in French Algeria in the mid 19th century, told from the point of view of the dissatisfied (sexually, socially, etc.) wife of an esteemed illusionist. To my mind it is basically a short story, or movie screenplay, extended to novel length; there’s one actual interesting moment in it when the protagonist makes a real choice, and it is indeed interesting, but we didn’t need to have 150 pages leading up to it and 50 pages of repercussions.

The prose is such that if I liked it I would say it had “limpid grace” or something, but I didn’t, so I’m calling it flat instead. I felt a little like I was reading a young adult novel.

Everything I’m saying here is negative, but it’s not like I particularly disliked it; I just never felt that engaged with it, and I don’t think it’ll stick in my mind for long.

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