Dawn's Reviews > The Magician's Assistant

The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett
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Apr 04, 11

bookshelves: book-club, kindling
Read in October, 2006

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 - the landscape is not all flat, the kitchens aren't decorated with roosters, and husbands are not wifebeaters or mild nerds. I flipped to the back cover to read the author bio. The first sentence: Ann Patchett lives in Los Angeles...no kidding!

Yawn.
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Katie I am an Ohio girl and I completely agree with you about the portrayal of Nebraska (and by extension everything between Lake Tahoe and the Hudson) in this book. It's so nice to know that it's not just me. I tried to forgive the Midwestern stereotypes early on in the book, thinking they were just Sabine's point of view being from LA and that she'd learn better once she actually ventured inland. But no. They're pretty much alive and well at the end.

I lived for two years in Seattle, where I about had my fill of the Americans that I think of as "the bicoastal snobs"... I was disappointed to encounter it in literature by a good novelist.

Side note: Ann Patchett doesn't live in L.A. anymore, she lives in Nashville. Maybe she's learned a few things about the rest of us after leaving L.A.


message 10: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily I agree. I pick the same bone with Jane Smiley about portrayal of the Midwest (I grew up and lived there until my mid-Twenties.) Do you have authors that you consider to do a good job with the region, or is that in itself a wrong expectation, since it is vast enough that Sioux City (or Omaha or...) isn't like Kansas City let along the Iron Range or Terre Haute.


Lily I agree. I pick the same bone with Jane Smiley about portrayal of the Midwest. (I grew up and lived there until my mid-twenties.) Do you have authors that you consider to do a good job with the region, or is that in itself a wrong expectation, since it is vast enough that Sioux City (or Omaha or...) isn't like Kansas City or Chicago or the Twin Cities, let alone the Iron Range or Terre Haute or Lake Superior or agriculture or ....


Amanda the land may not actually be all flat, an the homes may not be all decorated with roosters, but it sure might feel that way to an outsider like Sabine, and we get things through her eyes, so it works.

I don't think it depicts all midwestern men as wifebeaters or nerds, either-- it's just that we only see the men associated with this one family, and we know they've said there are better men out there, they just pick the bad ones.


Nancy What a relief to read your review. I felt exactly the same way about this book, especially about the character Sabine. Lifeless, listless, tedious. I had just read Bel Canto when I read this and felt bewildered.


Sarah I agree with Dawn 100%. Also, I kept waiting for the plot to twist or pick up or something...but nothing! I had to force myself to finish it and then it just ended. An epic waste of time, IMHO.


Mary Jane In agree wholeheartedly, but gave it 2 stars because Patchett writes well. Howver,this was a story not worth writing and even less worth reading.


Carol L I struggled to finish reading this novel - renewed it twice from the library. I finally returned it, but never finished reading it. It was one of the most pitiful books I've ever read! It totally lacked substance and I thought it was completely unrealistic at how chummy Sabine and Guy's immediately became right after meeting one another. I loved Patchett's "State of Wonder", and only liked "Run", another one of her novels. I started reading Bel Canto, but stopped after the first 20 pages.


Patti I agree with this review. I found Sabine to be a boring character, her interpretation of Nebraska narrow-minded and her attachment to Parsifal's secret family baffling. I didn't finish this book.


Alanna I agree with most of your review, but I do need to point out that Patchett mostly grew up in Nashville, TN, and lives there now. So I don't think we can completely cast her as an LA girl, even if she was born there and has spent time there...


Lilly Wow. You really just didn't get it, did ya?
As a magician's assistant of 7 years, in addition to being a balloon artist and face painter "in my own right" (as you seem to place no value on a job unless that job puts one centre stage) I found this book to a a wonderfully nuanced and accurate portrait of the entertainment world. In fact, Patchett points out that Sabine is actually doing most of the work, while Parsifal flutters his hands. I can attest, if it's illusion work, rather than sleight of hand, it's the assistant who pulling the trick off, not the magician.

And yes, you are absolutely right that not all Midwestern kitchens are decorated with roosters, but my grandma's is. :)

Also, not all Midwesterners are wife beaters, but some are. Like the one in this story. It's just one story, not saying all are like that.


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