The Magician
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The Magician

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  1,557 ratings  ·  167 reviews
In Paris around 1900, Arthur and Margaret are engaged to be married. Everyone approves and everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. Until Oliver Haddo appears. Sinister and repulsive, Haddo fascinates Margaret's spinster friend, Susie Boyd. Yet it is not Susie who ultimately falls prey to this peculiar charm. It is Margaret, and a fate worse than death awaits her in the f...more
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Published (first published 1908)
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Trevor
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cat
The Magician may not be Maugham's most known work, but it's my favourite so far.

Arthur and Margaret are about to marry when the sinister Oliver Haddo comes into their lives. Haddo is known for practising ocultism and to deal with the dark arts. At first, Arthur doesn't take him seriously; when strange things concerned with Margaret start taking place, Arthur is forced to realize that maybe he should have taken care not to offend the man who is known as a magician.

After having read two of Maugham...more
Ali
This is certainly a novel worth persevering with. The beginning is dare I say dull, and for a little while it drags, but then suddenly it develops into a truly gripping read. The awfully sinister Oliver Haddo is a sly practitioner of the occult, who appears to use his skill to ruin the lives of a couple of good and innocent souls. An excellent read.
Laura
This book has a very slow start but then picks up into something horrifying. I just wanted it all to be over. It's so dark and freaky. The descriptions have you holding your breathe for it to end quickly. If you like horror then highly recommend. If you are squeamish then may not be of your liking. First time reading this author and he can make your skin crawl. One of the nastiest antagonist in literature.
Tom
"The Magician" is a captivating story.

Margaret is engaged to Arthur, a well-off English surgeon. Margaret shares a Paris flat with Susie. One evening, they meet Oliver Haddo, a very large, very odd man, around whom the most unusual stories swarm.

Basically, Oliver is a magician, who uses his powers to lure Margaret away from Arthur, which pisses everyone off, and leads to a showdown.

When "The Magician" was published, Aleister Crowley wrote a review, contending that Maugham had plagiarized the st...more
Marts  (Thinker)
Magician Oliver Haddo seduces Margaret and runs away to Paris to marry her, this leaves her fiancé Authur Burdon totally confused, and with the help of her friend Susie Boyd and his mentor Dr. Porhoët he goes to Paris to get to the root of Margaret's uncanny change...

(Some elements of this novel remind me of The Wizard by Rider Haggard and Island of Dr. Moreau by Wells)...
Laura
Free download available at Project Gutenberg

An astonishing gothic story written by Somerset Maugham.

Location 122:
Dr Porhöet knew that a diversity of interests, though it adds charm to a man´s personality, tends to weaken him.

Location 140:
One of my cherished ideas is that it is impossible to love without imagination.

Location 277:
She had learnt long ago that common sense, intelligence, good-nature, and strenght of character were unimportant in comparison with a pretty face.

Location 384:
I shall not...more
Anushree Rastogi
Maugham's novel The Magician is an aesthetic disaster. From the fumbling realism at the beginning of the novel to the childishly Gothic fable that it turns into, the book seems to lack structure, design and well developed characters.
Maugham himself, on reading the book later, described it as “lush and turgid.” Cluttered with adjectives, the writing, bordering on being kitschy, does little to gloss over a story that is formulaic and shallow.
The plot is facile and it is no surprise that it was m...more
Benjamin Duffy
What a surprising, interesting book. After reading all of W. Somerset Maugham's most celebrated works several times over, and delving eagerly into his lesser-known (though not necessarily lesser in quality) material afterwards, this is the first one to completely surprise me.

The book is preceded, happily, by a foreword, "The Fragment of Autobiography," in which Maugham admits that the character of Oliver Haddo is indeed based on Aleister Crowley. He pulls no punches in his assessment of the real...more
Kaloyana
Не съм доволна от тази история на Моъм. Един магьосник прави експерименти за създаване на хора. За целта прецаква всичко живо по пътя си. Доста противни неща имаше и като цяло не беше интересно, нито силно психологическо. Силата на Моъм е в историите, където може много да се научи за взаимоотношенията между хората в различни житейски етапи и ситуации. Това ми липсваше. И макар да не е съвсем зле тази книга ѝ давам 2 звездички, защото Моъм винаги ме е карал да немея и да го чета с кеф и нетърпени...more
Laura
I adored this book. I could visualize every scene and when you realize that Maugham had actually lived with Aleister Crowley it makes the book even more terrifying. The scene toward the end of the book with the hommunculi was completely prescient. It perfectly predicted our fears of human clones.
Martin Nesmerakova
I was really looking forward to this book as it is set in 'bohemian cafe society of Paris' at the end of 19th century, and everyone who knows me knows that I adore nothing more than Paris and it's people. I was also interested in how the book was going to deal with the occult and magic. But this book failed to catch my interest and actually took me 3 month to read.

The start was bit slow but it was quite nice as you got to meet all the characters and were introduced to the time and era. The chara...more
Syco
W. Somerset Maugham is consistently one of the most fascinating writers I've ever read.
Joseph Grinton
Maugham's caricature of Aleister Crowley (Oliver Haddo) is brilliant and, no doubt, accurate. Maugham says in his preface that Crowley recognised himself. I'm sure he did. He was probably even flattered in spite of Maugham's blatantly unflattering portrait. Maugham says he never read the review by 'Oliver Haddo' (Aleister Crowley) in Vanity Fair and wishes he had. I have read it and enjoyed it immensely. I love it when two very smart men clash. Maugham has definitely researched his subject and g...more
Aussiescribbler Aussiescribbler
This simple little novel was inspired by Maugham's brief acquaintance with the notorious occultist Aleister Crowley in Paris in 1907. And it is unlike anything else of his that I've read. It begins in typical Maugham territory by describing the bohemian art community in Paris, but it gradually mutates into pulp horror territory ending up with scenes more reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft. Along the way there is much fascinating discussion of the principles and history of occultism. How much of this...more
Elizabeth
This was so worth reading, flawed as it is, in order to get a glimpse into a historic moment when neo-Jeckyll-Hyde-ish sciencey ghost stories were so popular that a writer wishing to "sell out" would choose the Victorian culture surrounding the idea one can manipulate soul/spirit/science for genre/setting. S Maugham does a fine job impersonating any genre, even if it's not the one he writes in most authentically. Also to see Maugham's span, between this v early book and, say, Razor's Edge, is to...more
Caglar Koca
The Magician is one of Maugham's early works. Even though it contains some marvelous features of Maugham, it stands away from most of his other works. The descriptive language that marks Maugham's style is as good as any other of his books. In fact, by choosing a doctor as his protagonist, he achieves a higher level in vivid descriptions. (view spoiler)...more
Tim Pendry
The Penguin edition is not being reviewed here. This is the Vintage Edition. The only difference in practice is that this does not have Calder’s introduction but has a short and somewhat languid autobiographical sketch from Maugham himself.

Written around 1907 before he began to make serious money as a playwright, this exhibits all the strengths and weaknesses of Maugham.

The strengths are (in general and allowing for a few moments where he shifts in to the purple-conventional) his exceptional abi...more
Steve Dewey
The Magician describes the relationships between two women and a man, and how these relationships are affected by their meeting with the magician of the title.

Margaret and Susie share rooms in Paris. Arthur Burdon is Margaret's fiance. Burdon is a renowned surgeon; his mentor is the retired doctor and occult scholar Dr. Porhoët. Porhoët introduces Oliver Haddo to his friends; Haddo is an occultist, a magician - loosely based on Aleister Crowley, "the wickedest man in the world", whom Maugham ha...more
June Louise
Well, if I have to be blatantly honest - the first half of this book had me wondering whether I should give up with it. It was slow, and a little boring. We met Arthur, Margaret, Susie and Dr Porhoet as well as the villain, Oliver Haddo. A few weird happenings occurred and thence begins the second part of the book.......

All I can say is that after having read it, I now have no nails left! It is unusual for me to yell whilst reading, but this book scared me rigid! (Yes, ok - it's probably not the...more
Suzanne
I saw this on a list of portrayals of Aleister Crowley in popular culture. The lore goes that Maugham crossed paths with Crowley, thought he was a pompous ass, and modeled the antagonist in The Magician after him. Crowley went on to write a piece for Vanity Fair (under the fictional name Maugham had given to his Magician character) and accused Maugham of plagiarism. How could I resist?

This is probably somewhere between a 3- and 4-star read, and lately, pacing seems to be my tiebreaker. The begin...more
F.R.
Magician Oliver Haddo (who is somewhat based on Maughan’s acquaintance Aleister Crowley) bewitches a young woman so that she marries him and ruins her life. This tale of European horror takes a while to get going, but once it does is genuinely chilling and builds to a horrible climax.

Somerset Maughan is not a writer I’ve ever read before (his work isn’t really in vogue these days is it?) and as far as I can tell this isn’t overly typical of his oeuvre, however I will check out some of his other...more
Andy
Well, a rabbit doesn't get pulled out of a hat and there are no gay German couples making white tigers disappear, in fact there's more occult and psychic phenomena at play than magic. Nevertheless, this book is delightful in a creepy Jekyll & Hyde-Invisible Man way. I think this would have made a great Universal Pictures horror film in the Thirties in it's own wickedly lurid way. A fun read and catch it before Tim Burton or Christopher Nolan ruin it with their pretentiousness.
Judi
I am glad that I have read other offerings from W. Somerset Maugham prior to "reading" this one. It is a bit uneven, but captivating and quite different from his other books. I would say that this is very much a book of its time. Late Victorian. Ghost stories, seances, ouija boards, the occult and the like. This is a gem in that sense. Perhaps a guilty pleasure read back in the day. I savored it as such. A bite of dark chocolate. Tasty.
Kilian Metcalf
Supposedly the magician of the title of this novella is based on the real-life occultist Aleister Crowley. If there is any resemblance, then I can only imagine that Crowley was a singularly unpleasant person. Maugham paints a portrait of a self-absorbed, vile, person who uses his powers to spread misery and suffering among all who have the misfortune to encounter him. I was glad when the story was over.
Portia S
One of the most awesome account of alchemy, and homunculi I had ever read, and it would be a very nice introduction or accompanying text to any one who enjoys the series Full Metal Alchemist. There is even mention of the alchemist "Hoenheim" :) Oh, it was amazing that he would write science fiction, isn't it? It was beautiful :)
Wreade1872
I have a sensitive spot when it comes to enslavement, sexual domination etc. so this book really stuck a nerve and it took me weeks to get it out of my head. If this book gets to you then it will really get you. If not then you might just think its a decent episode of the Twilight Zone. It certainly has that flavour towards the end.
Margaret
This is all melodrama, little characterization, and overwritten (which Maugham himself acknowledges in his introduction). There's magnetism to the title character, based on Aleister Crowley, but the other characters are so cardboardish that I didn't much care what happened to them.
Edward Gardner
Started out as a typical Maugham book, similar characters, same geography. But then when you got near the end it seemed to morph into a creepy Hitchcock-ish horror. Surprising and well worth the read.
Tosh
Jimmy Page and Kenneth Anger fans beware! The main character is based on Alistair Crowley, the mad (and media smart) magik guru of the early Twenties and thirties. British to the core and fascinating!
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William Somerset Maugham was born in Paris in 1874. He spoke French even before he spoke a word of English, a fact to which some critics attribute the purity of his style.

His parents died early and, after an unhappy boyhood, which he recorded poignantly in 'Of Human Bondage' , Maugham became a qualified physician. But writing was his true vocation. For ten years before his first success, he alm...more
More about W. Somerset Maugham...
Of Human Bondage The Razor's Edge The Painted Veil The Moon and Sixpence Cakes and Ale

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“Yet magic is no more the art of employing consciously invisible means to produce visible effects. Will, love, and imagination are magic powers that everyone possesses; and whoever knows how to develop them to their fullest extent is a magician. Magic has but one dogma, namely, that the seen is the measure of the unseen.” 4 likes
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