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Book #1 of 2007 [Jan. 19th, 2007|09:49 pm]
Amanda's Book Blog


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Dear Reader,

I just finished The Prestige by Christopher Priest. My husband and I got two copies of this book because we had seen the movie and both fell in love with it -- so much so that we still debate and discuss aspects of it almost daily months later. If the movie managed to be intricate, complex, devious, and enjoyable, we wondered, what must the book be like?

Honestly, without giving things away, it's hard to compare them. Both are accounts of rival magicians at the turn of the century -- two determined men vying to outdo each other, interfering with each others' acts, stealing each others' secrets. But all that says so little! Both harbor one huge secret -- one astounding and mind-boggling, one fantastic (in the original sense of the word) and horrific. Now, having seen the movie, I was prepared for both secrets -- and they still astounded and sickened me! That is the power of Mr. Priest's writing.

The tone of the book is hard to pinpoint. It is told mostly through the journals of the two magicians with some fill-ins by modern-day descendants. It has a gloomy, dream-like feel, like the old Gothic novels. This is partly due, I'm sure, to the secrecy inherent in magicians and the nature of the Victorian time period, where most of the action takes place. Despite the lack of physical descriptions (after all, why would a man journal about his own hair color or how his living room is decorated?) the book still manages to have a sincere sense of period -- there is nothing to indicate that the journal entries were written by a modern writer, and not a 19th century stage magician. One caveat, however: The book is sometimes like a troubled Ferrari. It is hard to start and sometimes stalls out. It took me two false tries before I really got into the book, but once I was into it -- man, was I flying! Then, after awhile, it felt like the engine stuttered and I skidded to a stop. I would pick up the book, read a few sentences, put it down, pick it up again. However, once past the bumps, the book flew gracefully and elegantly towards the crash the reader knows is coming.

And yes, you know that there's tragedy waiting -- perhaps because of the way the two magicians fight with each other, both in the book and on film. I've never seen a book and movie so alike and dissimilar at the same time! The movie changed things many movies do: marital status (married with kids vs widowed), time stream (25ish years vs 10-12 max); but some of the changes are astounding in the way they affected me. In the movie, Borden was the sympathetic character. Malicious, yes, but non-violent and often a victim of crueler things. As an opposite, Angier was rarely seen in a good light. In the book, both are equal in their cruelty and violence and mistakes, but, despite the disgusting nature of his final "illusion", I find Angier to be the more sympathetic character in the book. My husband disagrees. More debating!

It's going to be awhile before I reread this one, but I will. I can only recommend this book to the patient and intelligent readers out there. If you want a fluffy, meaningless book that doesn't tax the brainpower -- look elsewhere! If you want to be taken on a macabre journey through the minds of two extraordinary men - and spend hours debating with other readers about nuances - go get it!

Despite the stalling -- or maybe because the rest was compelling enough to keep me going -- 5 stars.