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Millroy the Magician

3.4  ·  Rating Details ·  440 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
"Brilliant...Wonderful...Millroy's magic pops out at the reader from the first page."

--John Updike

The New Yorker

"PICARESQUE...ENCHANTING...Theroux is a gifted and versatile tale spinner."


Fourteen-year-old Jilly Farina was mesmerized by Millroy the Magician at the Barnstable County Fair. After all, he once turned a girl from the audience into a glass of milk and dran
Paperback, 0 pages
Published March 1st 1995 by Ballantine Books (first published 1993)
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Aug 19, 2008 Mary rated it really liked it
This book is tricky surprising and so incredibly beautiful. It will give you much to ponder about humanity and the power of belief. I sincerely enjoyed it and could not put it down.
Jun 18, 2014 Oceana2602 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another typical case of "Don't judge a book by its cover"...

If you've been following my reviews for a while, you'll know by now that I havea mad love affair with Paul Theroux. (his books, of course. It's totally what I mean to say).

I LOVE Theroux.

No discussion about it. Nothing he can do will convince me otherwise. I hope. OMG I really really hope.

Of course I don't love every single one of his books, which would be asking a bit much, since a) he has written a lot more than most good authors th
Jun 29, 2010 Christine rated it did not like it
Shelves: just-awful
I read this for a book club...blech! Just. Terrible. I couldn't bring myself to finish it.
Dec 23, 2014 Whitni rated it did not like it
Here's a book about a racist, narcissistic, xenophobic pedifile who kidnaps a troubled young girl by trapping her in a burlap sack, forces her to cross-dress and pretend to be his son, says a bunch of creepy, codependent things to her, and tries to impress her with magic tricks that become increasingly desperate and homicidal so that she'll fall in love with him, while simultaneously founding a cult based on quirky interpretations of the bible used to further his own sense of moral superiority t ...more
Jul 14, 2009 Stephanie rated it it was ok
Shelves: bees
It is not often that I am at a loss for words about a particular book. It is even less frequent if I am not sure whether I liked a book or not. It took me about one week to read Millroy, and I primarily read because I wanted to see how the story of Millroy and Jilly would end. I still don't know if I enjoyed this book. The character of Millroy is certainly a complex and fascinating one, but the plot left something to be desired (for me). I wouldn't recommend this one to most readers - it is extr ...more
Jul 02, 2008 Judith rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Jaap
Though I've never truly watched the TV-series "Carnivale", as I found them too scary for the time of day they were broadcasted, this book oozes the same feeling of dark mystery, which is partly why I loved it. Millroy is a magician capable of true magic (liquidizing people and drinking them like milk) and is obsessed with healthy food as eaten in the Bible. He takes 14-year old Jilly along on his travels, and it is through her eyes we see the slightly disturbing story unfold.
Nov 23, 2013 Sandra rated it did not like it
Shelves: magic-realism
Billed as "a funny, dark satire of America's obsessions," and written by the talented Paul Theroux, this book should have been right up my alley, but quite possibly it is one of the stupidest things I've ever read. A warning label would be helpful: Caution--contains spurious vomiting and other unwarranted redundancies and pointless excesses. What in the heck was this all about? Cannot believe I kept reading this muddled tale to the very end. It did not get better.
Maybe this is a book I can try to read again during the winter. It's slow-paced (which is normally fine) and a bit creepy (also, generally speaking, fine) but I think if you're reading a book like that, one or more of the characters should be engaging in some way or another. For me at this time, I wasn't drawn to a character or the story.
Margaret Blake
Apr 04, 2013 Margaret Blake rated it did not like it
With a title like 'Millroy the Magician' I thought it would be a fun book, but ... while it kept me reading, when I got to the end I didn't like it at all. I believe it was meant to portray a love story but what I saw was a middle-aged man who kidnapped a young girl because he was obsessed with her. I would not recommend it.
Jun 24, 2009 Bill rated it it was amazing
For me this is Theroux's funniest book. He takes potshots at all kinds of American icons from pompous religious types, to organic food fanatics, to children's TV. The story can be disturbing at times but if you read it to the end you will be rewarded by some real surprises.
Jul 28, 2008 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
One of my all time favorites. I'd hesitate to recommend it to most people I know though. It's an odd, odd little book that for some reason really resonated with me.
Lee Gooden
Dec 07, 2007 Lee Gooden rated it liked it
This was a strange book with a very disturbing ending. The last couple of pages will stay with me forever.
Sep 08, 2016 Polly rated it really liked it
The story begins at the Barnstable County Fair. The narrator is Jilly Farina, a 14-year-old girl. Her mother is dead, her father is a drunk and she lives with her abusive grandmother. Jilly walks into a tent and her life is transformed. Fixing her with his hypnotic gaze, the Magician performs astonishing miracles. When she is later magicked into his trailer and Millroy promises to train her as his assistant, Jilly feels safe for the first time her short life.
But Millroy is more than a mere stage
Norton Stone
May 27, 2013 Norton Stone rated it liked it
I could not put this book down, yet as I read the reason was not obvious. Beautifully written but a brilliant exercise in repetition. I became entranced. The book is hypnotic. At the end, the journey I had been on was not completely clear, as if I had emerged from an eon compressed in a 5 minute nap. I can remember it all yet I remain unsure of the purpose. Was Jilly Farina from Marston Mills a wide eyed delusional apostle and Millroy a false prophet? Was Millroy God's son but ultimately imperfe ...more
May 18, 2016 Elisa rated it really liked it
What if Jesus were to come back today?

This is a witty, dark, often unsettling but funny look on society; ridiculing its obsessions with weight, consumerism and religion. Millroy's story is a satirical Second Coming, with many parts mimicking the Bible: the first disciple (Jilly) the expelling of the money changers (marketers) from the restaurant, miracles and preaching.

But the book is also a circus performance, structured in three acts - filled with comedy, suspense and cliffhangers.

The story i
William Barr
Oct 28, 2015 William Barr rated it it was ok
Am a fan of Theroux's non fiction and enjoyed reading his novel The Mosquito Coast so it was with anticipation that I obtained a copy of Millroy the Magician.
It has been described as a parable of modern America, possibly so but I for one didn't get it.
I struggled to finish it, all the time hoping that switch would come on in my head and I would see the light, unfortunately all remained in darkness and as the last sentence of the final chapter was at last read, my sense of relief was mingled with
Oct 28, 2014 Suzanne rated it it was amazing
Unlike almost everything else I've read by Theroux, this book did not seem one bit autobiographical (until the very end). The characters Millroy and Jilly were superbly created, delightful, surprising reading. I love the crankiness that comes through here, the criticism of the American way of life, the hard look at Americans' lumpy malformed physiques. Toward the center of the book it seemed the author was not sure where to take the story, and it became a little repetative, but the characters we ...more
Jodi Graham
Jan 23, 2015 Jodi Graham rated it it was ok
A little creepy, a little gross, but not in a page-turning kind of way. The best way to describe my reaction to this book is that it kept me waiting. Waiting for anything to happen. Anything. It seemed to stay in one place throughout. I'm such a sucker for good characters, and will plod through all kinds of lazy plots, but this one didn't satisfy. Like a burger will satisfy. The characters had potential, but they never sucked me into their world.
Mar 27, 2009 Ken rated it it was amazing
This book changed my life. It wil change yours too. It's a fiction but it's so well grounded in north-american food culture that it feels more like a real biography. If you have a true interest of what goes into your body (and what comes out of it...) and how it effect who you are - this book is for you
Peter Soutowood
Apr 12, 2010 Peter Soutowood rated it did not like it
This is the only Theroux book I couldn't finish. By three-quarters through, I still didn't know what the story was about, didn't understand the odd and two-dimensional characters, and didn't even bother to the end to find out what happened, because I didn't care. A rare miss.
Mar 24, 2013 Barbara rated it really liked it
What a bizarre reading experience! For most of the middle of the novel, I felt like I couldn't possibly read one more line - I disliked it that much. But the last few pages blew me away. I would love to hear others' reactions.
Apr 02, 2015 Steve rated it liked it
Shelves: funny, love-story
I went into this book with an idea of what to expect and was thrown completely upside down repeatedly - this is a book that should not be missed, but it did leave me confused as to why it was written at all. A wacky story, wacky characters, but has a very warm and moving message contained within.
Jul 15, 2008 Leah rated it did not like it
Shelves: unfinished
The book is unfinished, possibly never to be finished, because I couldn't get into it. The opening chapters weren't very good and I didn't feel motivated to try to read more.
Sep 04, 2011 Aaron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting enough to explain why I keep reading him, but always feel a bit unfinished/incomplete with him too.
Apr 09, 2010 Popper rated it it was amazing
I love everything he writes but I can still picture the scenery and feel like I have known these characters my whole life. Paul Theroux really brings you in
Nov 15, 2013 Kate rated it did not like it
12 of us in a book group started this. Only one finished it and only because she obsessively finishes every book she starts. Everyone else found it too weird or too disturbing.
Jul 11, 2009 Heidi rated it did not like it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
hmm. Usually like Theroux very much--- this one, I just couldn't get into and stopped half-way. It's slow and redundant, and no one character really grabbed me.
May 01, 2009 Frankie rated it it was amazing
I WOULD read this book more than once if I could ever find a copy in the stores. It's amazing. A.Ma.Zing.
Oct 30, 2009 Michaeldelicio rated it really liked it
A chance encounter book. I really like this story - about a meglomaniacal savior-type, looking to save America through its diet. Fun read.
Mary Leikvold
Dec 17, 2014 Mary Leikvold rated it really liked it
I hovered between three stars and four. I give the book four stars because it was so much fun to read. Paul Theroux is always a treat.
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Paul Edward Theroux is an American travel writer and novelist, whose best known work is The Great Railway Bazaar (1975), a travelogue about a trip he made by train from Great Britain through Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, through South Asia, then South-East Asia, up through East Asia, as far east as Japan, and then back across Russia to his point of origin. Although perhaps best know ...more
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