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The Magician's Assistant

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  19,671 ratings  ·  2,158 reviews
When Parsifal, a handsome and charming magician, dies suddenly, his widow Sabine—who was also his faithful assistant for twenty years—learns that the family he claimed to have lost in a tragic accident is very much alive and well. Sabine is left to unravel his secrets, and the adventure she embarks upon, from sunny Los Angeles to the bitter windswept plains of Nebraska, wi ...more
Audiobook, Unabridged, 11 pages
Published May 13th 2008 by HarperAudio (first published January 1st 1997)
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I know you are thinking, is there a book you don't like, Laura? Here's the deal. If I don't like a book I can barely read it, much less finish it. So if I do read it-I like it, in varying degrees, but I like it. So tonight I read the Magician's Assistant, by Ann Patchett. If you have read Bel Canto, (and you should have, though I'm not sure I'm spelling it right at the moment.)then you know her style. You get hypnotised by the story, by the language, you get into this rhythm that you can't break ...more
Is this really Ann Patchett? While the story was mildly intriguing, I couldn't really like the main character. Sabine seemed too satisfied with living a half-life (in love with a gay man, an assistant instead of a magician, a maker of architectural models rather than an architect, etc.). The literary symbolism also seemed clumsy and obvious (last name Fetters, for example). Finally, and most annoying to me as I live here, the ridiculous caricature of Midwesterners made me want to scream. COME ON ...more
This book surprised me. Throughout the whole thing, I was never exactly sure how much I was enjoying it, and yet I couldn't wait to pick the book back up and continue reading. By time the book was done, I wanted to read more, and wanted the story to continue.

The story itself is strange, very strange, but it draws you in immediately. It's the story of a woman named Sabine who is coming to terms with exploring the hidden past of her husband, a famous gay magician after his death. You wonder how th
I enjoyed reading the book, but after reading it I couldn't say that I loved it (hence, three stars).

Sabine, the main character, spends time with her dead husband's family, none of whom she knew existed. The reader is supposed to come along on the journey with her to discover the missing parts of her longtime friend/spouse, but I didn't gain any new insights to him from her visit back to his roots. The West Coast magician reinvented himself too well to have any connection to the Midwestern teen
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
This is my second Patchett novel, and I liked it even less than the previous one I read ( State of Wonder ).

First, I totally misunderstood the premise of this novel. I thought our heroine Sabine's lovely hottie magician husband dies, and then she discovers he was secretly gay, and then discovers he lied about his family being dead and seeks them out blah blah. Instead, the story is that Sabine's lovely hottie magician husband is openly gay and only marries her in the last year so she may inherit
Carol Moore
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I have really become an admirer of Patchett’s writing, and this book was a close second to Bel Canto, which I adored. The Magician’s Assistant is Sabine, and she is mourning the sudden loss of her husband, Parsifal. But the story goes deeper than that. Parsifal is gay, and shortly after the death of his lover, Phan, he marries Sabine to ensure her security in the event of his death. Sabine had been Parsifal’s long-time assistant in his magic act, but more importantly, they shared a bond of frien ...more
I picked this book up a few times and lost interest before finishing the first page. But when I finally got past the first three or four pages, I was really hooked. This characters are just so, so compelling. They're actually so compelling that when I was partway through the book I almost lit a candle at church for two of the characters in it, temporarily confusing them with real people. Which I _think_ is more a testament to how well-written and absorbing the book is than to how socially maladj ...more
Jun 23, 2011 Barbara rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Susan, Maria
In my analysis of this book, I have to remind myself that Patchett had written it prior to her amazing, "Bel Canto" and her most recent, "Run". The latter included flat characterizations,and was filled with implausible coincidences and did not meet my expectations for "suspense", as was publicized. In this novel, Patchett had already demonstrated her talent for fashioning her language to convey the complexities of her characters' emotions and actions. She was so adept at this in "Bel Canto", one ...more
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With The Magicians Assistant, Ann Patchett has performed the proverbial "Hat Trick" with a tale that is filled with beautiful writing but contains nothing new in the way of plot.

By diverting our attention with conversations with the dead, flashbacks, dreams and vicarious travel being experienced by Sabine, the title character of this piece and widow of Parsifal the Magician, she manages to make us think we are experiencing a tale of substance when, in fact, it is really all just smoke and mirro
nomadreader (Carrie D-L)
(review originally posted at

The basics: At the beginning of the novel, Parcifal, the magician of the novel's title, dies suddenly. Sabine, the assistant of the title, is left to grieve.

My thoughts: After having loved State of Wonder, Bel Canto, and Run, I was convinced Ann Patchett was one of my literary soul sisters who could do no wrong. Sadly, I didn't connect with The Magician's Assistant at all, and I struggled to even finish the novel. My problems with this
Went down like pablum. Bland, but healthy, just like a Hallmark movie. Everyone is good and wonderful and life affirming except for a couple of domestic abuser men.

Sabine’s magician husband, Parsifal, has just died at the beginning of this story. It soon becomes clear that she has loved him for the 20 years that she has served as his assistant on stage, despite knowing he was gay. She lived with Parsifal and his lover for a long time in LA and only married him recently as his prolonged illness
This is a warm and very human story. I loved getting to know the main character, Sabine, and watching her come to terms with the choices she's made as she struggles to build a new life after losing her magician. All the characters in this story are so multi-dimensional that I found myself simply engaging with them at a human level and losing the critical distance I usually maintain when I read fiction.

My only real complaint with the novel involves the pacing. Some of the narrative changes were
1/2/14: Rereading an old favorite is interesting. I still love this book, still love the glittering magic of LA and the gritty, land-bound Nebraska setting. What surprised me was how my perception changed. I loved this book at 19, then at 22, then at 24. Everyone felt so much older then; reading it now, I'm older than the youngest main character in the story, Bertie, and what hit hardest was how this was a story of grown ups not knowing what the hell they're doing and making poor decisions.

I do love Ann Patchett. Her writing has an ethereal, magical quality to it that completely draws the reader in no matter what the story. The Magician's Assistant was the third novel of hers I read and enjoyed it almost as much as Bel Canto, her masterpiece. The protagonist in this story, Sabine, being a magician assistant and somewhat magical herself in her thoughts, dreams and interactions fit so well with Patchett's surreal writing style. Sabine has lost her gay husband and her best friend for ...more
Karolyn Sherwood
It is rare to find a literary page-turner, but Ann Patchett never fails to give us exactly that. Her writing is elegant, sophisticated and quiet; it never gets in the way of the story. The closer I got to the end of this book, the more obsessed I became with it, wanting to make sure that everyone was going to be okay, at least in some sense of the word.

The Magician's Assistant follows the same pattern of Patchett's other novels: An unsuspecting character is thrust into a world full of people he
I found this to be a quick, somewhat compelling read, but it really fell flat for me when there was no good resolution. I expected the ending to be much more significant/meaningful/profound than it was - instead, it felt really empty. I also predicted it about 1/3 of the way through the book, and it played out in a really hollow way, I thought. Probably not worth reading if you haven't already, though it's quick so you could always try it w/out wasting much time.
I liked it but didn't love it. The plot seems so, so contrived. Sure, I get it that the main character would be interested in unearthing the mystery of her gay dead husband's past, but her extended post-marriage visit with his family didn't ring true to me. Also, the needs and smothering of her by Persival's family, who hadn't seen him in in person for years, even though they fixated on daily viewings of him on tape, is weird.
This is my favorite book (so far) by Ann Patchett. It has a very sweet story that is told beautifully.
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Will Byrnes
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Whew. I've been muddling through 2 and 3 star books for a while; it was quite a relief to find this beautiful specimen. I have State of Wonder on my to read list and was browsing stacks in the library by author and figured I'd pick up something else by Patchett to see what I thought. And I loved it.

This book was very compelling, beautifully written, amazingly perceptive, funny, and wise. The characters were complex, the plot unfolded well, and I really only have one very small criticism.
I thou
As the second Ann Patchett book I've read, I was already aware of her melodic language and ability to set a scene so exquisitely and humanize her characters so thoroughly that you truly forget reality. Patchett's use of words is far superior to other contemporary writers. The Magician's Assistant was not exactly what I expected it to be, and I was beyond captivated by it. Sabine, the central character underwent incredible emotional changes from turmoil to peace and everything in between. Patchet ...more
I've had this on the bookshelf for a very long time. All of my friends rave about Patchett's 'Bel Canto', which is also waiting on the shelf. What's kept me from reading them is my experience reading 'Run' by this author. I read it with my book group and just didn't care for it, because of that I'd been putting off reading her books. I'm happy to say this book remedied my aversion to reading Ann Patchett novels.

Sabine is the magician's assistant, her husband, Parsifal, the magician, has just pas
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This morning, my belligerent son used his well-honed fingernails to pierce a hole in my hand, drawing blood. When I felt the pain, I smacked his hand away in self defense. I don't feel like talking to him, or even looking at him, for a week. I think he feels the same. He is six, and he has beautiful eyes.

Of course, were he to be diagnosed with brain cancer, my heart would explode and die, and my will to live would wane faster than you could say intentional overdose. Can a person overdose on Advi
This was my first Ann Patchett book, despite the fact that I've been told I would like her for years. I really did like this, too; her writing is clever in a not-trying-too-hard kind of way. The premise was fascinating (the magician's assistant Sabine going off to Nebraska in search of her recently deceased gay husband's mystery family that he never told her about) and I thought it was interesting how she reacted and interacted to and with them. My only complaint was the relationship that Patche ...more
Despite feeling like the ending was a bit of an anticlimax, I thought this was a beautiful and tender book. The main character, Sabine, is very likable but difficult to get to know--both for other characters, and for the reader. So while she does have wonderful, real love in her life, she is also profoundly lonely, especially after losing her husband/best friend. Her grief leads her down a road she never imagined, to unlikely friendships, and that was more than enough for me. I love how Patchett ...more
Jan Blazanin
This languidly-paced novel follows Sabine, the wife and assistant to the magician Parsifal who dies suddenly. Although Sabine and Parsifal had a loving relationship, it was platonic, as he was gay and in love with a handsome Vietnamese man. After Parsifal dies, Sabine discovers that he has a mother and two sisters in Nebraska. This comes as a complete surprise, since he told Sabine his family was killed in an automobile accident years before.

Against her parents' wishes, Sabine invites Parsifal's
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Patchett was born in Los Angeles, California. Her mother is the novelist Jeanne Ray.

She moved to Nashville, Tennessee when she was six, where she continues to live. Patchett said she loves her home in Nashville with her doctor husband and dog. If asked if she could go any place, that place would always be home. "Home is ...the stable window that opens out into the imagination."

Patchett attended hi
More about Ann Patchett...
Bel Canto State of Wonder Run Truth and Beauty Patron Saint of Liars

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“If you've had good gin on a hot day in Southern California with the people you love, you forget Nebraska. The two things cannot coexist. The stronger, better of the two wins.” 6 likes
“Nothing comforted Sabine like long division. That was how she had passed time waiting for Phan and then Parsifal to come back from their tests. She figured the square root of the date while other people knit and read. Sabine blamed much of the world's unhappiness on the advent of calculators.” 3 likes
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