Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Magician's Wife” as Want to Read:
The Magician's Wife
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Magician's Wife

3.05  ·  Rating details ·  623 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
Set in the late 1850s in France and Algeria, this title tells the story of Emmeline Lambert, married to an illusionist sent by Napoleon III to persuade the Arabs that France's might and magic are the greater.
Hardcover, 215 pages
Published December 1st 1997 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 1997)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Magician's Wife, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Magician's Wife

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jennifer (aka EM)
Feb 16, 2013 marked it as abandoned-forever  ·  review of another edition
I can't take it any more. This is such a disappointment - especially from the other Brian Moores I've read, Black Robe and The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, both of which are brilliant.

It's amateurishly told with a main character, the titular wife, who is some weird combination of a bored 1950s soap opera housewife and a 14-year-old teen with no self-esteem who cares only for hair, make-up and clothes. And this is supposed to take place in 1856 (post-Revolution) Paris and Algiers? As convinc
May 16, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite a few scenes in this book captured me, including the serie with Napoleon III and Lambert's critical performance. I found Emmeline interesting as the character through whom the story unfolds. Her sense of unfairness and injustice ring true, and her act of rebellion later in the story feels meaningful. I wonder if other colonial people in Algiers had similar views of dissent amidst the militaristic fervor.

Moore's prose is good, though I do wish he included the other senses with his colorful
Jul 21, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hocus pocus...historical fiction is magically transformed into a desert political thriller...a thoughtful morality fable...and even a Flaubertian tale of romantic-realism. The literary talents of the underrated Northern Irish/Canadian novelist are on display in this sleight of hand novel about Henri Lambert, master illusionist, and his much younger and beautiful provincial wife, Emmeline, who is the true charmer in this tale of mid-19th-century France and Algeria at the moment of colonial confli ...more
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a deceptively simple novel. For the first half of the book, you are ushered into the lavish court of Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, seen through the yes of the timid Emmeline, the magician's wife. The descriptions of the clothing and entertainments are wonderfully accurate. In the second half, you are drawn into the magician's secret mission to Algeria, where Emmeline gradually awakens to the horrible truth of Napolean's designs on the country and her husband's role in them. This is n ...more
Aug 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In some ways, a fairly ordinary adventure with a bit of romance, acted in Orientalist drag, though Brian Moore is a fine writer.
Set in the mid-19th century as France is completing its domination of Algeria, the central character is an apparently strikingly beautiful but provincial young women married to an older stage magician who is famous across the Continent. He is deputized by Napoleon III to go astonish the natives and convince them of France's superior power. His wife first has to adjust t
Galen Johnson
Emmeline Lambert is the quietly unhappy wife of an almost hermetic magician; her husband suddenly becomes ambitious again when invited by the emperor and his wife to spend a week among royalty. Henri, the magician, is asked to go to Algeria to perform his magic in an attempt to awe the natives, and Emmeline accompanies him but gradually breaks out of her shell in the foreign country.

Interesting story, slightly predictable with somewhat stilted characters, but well-written enough to hold attentio
Feb 04, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book bothered me. All Emmeline ever does is whine, all Lambert ever does is pose, and all Deniau ever does is plot. I do not recommend it unless you enjoy a whole lot of buildup to an utter let-down of an ending.
Mary Alice
May 31, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, novel
Set in the mid 1800's, this is the story of a magician's patriotic trip to Africa to "perform" for the good of his country, (France then ruled by Napoleon III). We see the setup from his young, beautiful wife's point of view.

Parts of the books dragged, but the last 75 pages were very exciting.
Aug 21, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lucille
Shelves: 850-905, suite, glitter
Rather disappointed by this book. Bestseller my ass. It was boring and I didn't find myself identifying with any of the characters.
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first reading by Brian Moore and though it took a few chapters to get me hooked, once I set aside expectations and points of view of Emmeline and her early filters on how she saw things I began to be more intrigued. I appreciated the descriptions of clothing and the distinctions of rank and favor and how the political scene was working with its secret agendas. I was able to hear and visualize the horses and gun salutes, uniform dress once the novel moved to Algiers. As her character b ...more
1856: Το Αλγέρι βρίσκεται υπό γαλλική κατοχή και υπάρχει ο φόβος της κήρυξης ιερού πολέμου από το ισλάμ, που θα εμποδίσει τα επεκτατικά πλάνα του Γάλλου αυτοκράτορα. Ο συνταγματάρχης Ντενιό πείθει τον αυτοκράτορα και θέτει σε εφαρμογή το σχέδιό του. Φέρνει στο Αλγέρι το διασημότερο ταχυδακτυλουργό, το Λαμπέρ, συνοδευόμενο από τη νεαρή γυναίκα του, Εμελίν, για να κάνει επίδειξη των ικανοτήτων του στους φανατικούς θρησκόληπτους Άραβες. Το σχέδιο περιέχει ουσιαστικά το marketing των επιδείξεων του ...more
Carlos Mock
Jul 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Magician's Wife by Brian Moore

It's 1856, a year before the French conquer Algeria.

Henri Lambert is a famous magician. Colonel Charles Deniau, Head of Napoleon III's Bureau Arabe, is trying to convince Lambert to perform the feat of his life: to convince the Arabs in Algeria that the French have greater sorcerers than the Arabs - and prevent an all out war with the French before the French are ready to invade.

To do this, Lambert must travel to Algiers and perform magic that has never been see
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Elizabeth
Shelves: 2016
On a whim, I picked this up as a clearance book at Half Price, totally judging it by its cover. I quickly became engrossed in Emmeline and Henri Lambert's story about Napoleon III's decision to use Lambert's skill as an illusionist in an attempt to forestall jihad in French-colonized Algeria in 1856. Not until I completed this engrossing tale did I discover it is based on a true event! Even better. This novel just flows.
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is 1856 Second Empire France under Napoleon III. A naive French provincial wife, a master illusionist driven by ambition and a skillful diplomat/politician interact with the Muslim tribal chiefs in Algeria. The objective: to convince the Arabs that the master illusionist is more powerful than the tribes' greatest marabout, thus forestalling a jihad and giving the French soldiers time to recuperate from their Crimean victory to exercise the coup de gras that will secure all of Algeria for Fren ...more
Oct 14, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I could, I would rate this book 3 1/2 stars, based on the author's knowledge of his subject and the sweeping scope of this novel. "The Magician's Wife" begins in 1850's France, and tells the story of Emmeline, lovely young wife of a world-famous magician, who, after being swept off her feet and marrying the famous Henri Lambert, finds herself living a quiet, lonely existence in a small village in France. Her life changes suddenly, and dramatically, when Henri is summoned to the country estate ...more
Dec 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brian-moore
Not so much a book as a screenplay, with so many of the scenes seeming to be written for cinematic effect as much as meaning for the plot or character development.

Although they mesh as intended influences on the central character Emmeline, the visit to Compeigne and other colourful events aren't completely convincing as plot elements. Indeed, it's unclear why Deniau knows that Emmeline is either beautiful or significant to manipulating Lambert given that he had never seen or met her previously.

Jeff Anderson
This was a thoughtful look at a young woman's ideas and feelings as her husband participates in furthering French imperialistic goals in Algeria in the late 1800's. I enjoyed the story and agreed with some of the lessons the young woman learned along the way. It is somewhat disconcerting however to be shown the mind of a woman by a male author and I found it hard to take the author seriously at times. There are far too many stories that unrealistically resolve every problem the characters face. ...more
Jun 25, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
As the star rating says, this book was not bad, just okay.

Emmeline is the title character. She's the unhappy wife of magician, Henri Lambert. Henri is the type of gent who prefers the inside of his shop/his inventions to his wife and they live a nearly hermetic lifestyle in Tours. Henri is invited to the emperor's home and Emmeline attends the party with him. There, Henri is asked to journey to Algeria in an effort to stop a religious war.

I wanted to like this book and there were definitely part
She of Seidhr
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads
Although this novel is not without interesting parts, I found myself wondering whether the author was sure of what direction he wanted to take this book into because it had neither a solid beginning nor an end. It felt like the whole novel was the middle part of an even longer book. By the time I got to the last paragraph I was almost positive that the copy I owned had the last pages torn out but alas, that is not the case.

Also, the main character tends to be too self-pitying and whiny. The only
With this title, how can I not read it?

Not a bad book. Just not very exciting.

Based on a historical events, this is a story of an unhappy marriage and colonialism. Henri Lambert, famous illusionist, has been drafted by the French emperor to demonstrate the power of France to north African leaders, in hopes that they will be impressed and too afraid to fight back when France sends in its conquering troops. There's some great description of French court life and Algerian architecture, and there's
May 20, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mid 3. The titular character, as wife of the pre-eminent illusionist Henri Lambert, is whisked from her rural solitude in provincial France to the court of Emperor Napoleon III and to the French colonial ambitions in 1850s Algeria. The author's eye to historical detail is impressive, particularly in recapturing the social airs and graces of the royal court. As her husband's deft abilities to deceive are employed to further French imperial designs on Algeria by quelling any potential native upris ...more
Jul 13, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really think this is more 2 and a half stars but I rounded up. I know this is a novel based upon a 'true' story but I really wanted Emmeline to BE more and to push the customary boundaries more than she did. I felt her character could have developed into a fuller self. This is why 2 1/2 stars seems more appropriate. The reason I rounded up is that Moore writes well enough to keep me intrigued until the end...but then I wanted MORE after that...what happens when Emmeline gets home? How has she ...more
Aug 08, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The first half of the book is about the woman's experiences among the French Court. The second half is about her experiences in Algeria. It's romantic themes tend towards flirtations with other men while she is married to a man who ignores her. I find it hard to believe that a woman in that time period would always be unaccompanied by others of her own sex. She has no friends and so she spends her time with Col. Deniau and no one seems to notice. C'mon...this is the early 19th century. Didn't fi ...more
Aug 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this! It was a light read, but perfect for traveling. Set in 1800s with French characters who voyage to Africa. I liked the exploration of the story's premise - that a European magician was sent to delude African Muslims into thinking that the Europeans had a better relationship with God because of this magic. I liked that the story had enough twists to keep me wondering what was going to happen. There are some good critical point in the book. A decent ending. Glad to have stumbled acros ...more
Gregg Bell
Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: done
In this day and age of vampires, zombies and all the other paranormal characters that are so prevalent, The Magician's Wife is a look at a world of magic populated by HUMAN BEINGS (and Moore's human beings are much more interesting than any zombies or werewolves!)

Moore puts you right in the exotic locales his characters visit. He puts you right inside their heads. His insights into life are immense. His writing style is fluid and effortless.

You will not be disappointed by this book. Impossible!
Debbie Maskus
This is a story set in the 1870's in France and Algeria, and based very loosely an actual events. The amazing content of the story is the magician and his "bag of tricks" to fool the "ignorant" masses. The detail given to the clothes and food and setting propelled the story. The story has a hint of forbidden romance, but the final resolution is sad. A look at the life and inhibitations of the 1870's. The scenes at the get-together with the Emperor and Empress are both amazing and disgusting. I m ...more
Stacey (wanderlustforwords67)
Actually 3.5
I don't understand why the GR's rating is so low. This wasn't an award winning book but I liked it more than All the Light We Cannot See that won the Pulitzer.
It has a great premise I just don't think it was executed to its full potential. The writing was god- just not sensational. I think there were a lot of missed opportunities in the story. It's a sweet book and actually got quite good toward the end, although I did guess one of the plot twists. Still I think it's a light and eas
Jan 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I quite enjoyed this novel, especially after reading the fast moving, emotion charged Suzanne Collins series (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay). Wife is a departure from many of the heavier HF novels I pick up. This is light, quick to read and is placed in the era where Napoleon was planning to capture Algeria. Inspired by a true story, it gives one a glance into the culture, political intrigue, and religious beliefs and activities of the time - a most interesting little read.
Aug 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
historical novel during napoleon III and in alegeria. the magician is sent from french court to sahara to convince those hillbillies that france's "magic" and power are enough to rule their homelands. the wife tranforms to boring bojo to hot colonialist with a braoder outlook. based on true story. brian moore is avery good writer. they say his tradmarks are: suspense, political upheavel, and moral chaos. i'd say that sums this book up well.
Se podría describir, con sus 220 páginas, como una novela corta, y está bien que así sea. Lo más interesante de la historia es el hecho real en el que se basa (Houdini siempre me tienta), pero la verdad es que se queda en poco más que anécdota. Su valor como reflexión sobre los poderes conquistadores y el belicismo pierde ciertos matices con el tiempo: no en vano se escribió por 1997 (si mal no recuerdo)... luego llegaría septiembre de 2001 y todo lo que vino después...
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • The Word "Desire"
  • Appetites: On the Search for True Nourishment
  • The Body Reset Diet
  • Watching the Tree
  • The Cure for Everything: Untangling Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness, and Happiness
  • Creating Poetry
  • We Had It So Good
  • The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them
  • Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw: Travels in Search of Canada
  • The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life
  • The Coconut Oil Miracle
  • The Ventriloquist's Tale
  • Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles
  • Art and Artifice and Other Essays of Illusion
  • Tales of a Wayside Inn
  • Teach Yourself Beginner's Hindi Script
  • Great Short Works
  • The Bullet Catch
Brian Moore (1921–1999) was born into a large, devoutly Catholic family in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His father was a surgeon and lecturer, and his mother had been a nurse. Moore left Ireland during World War II and in 1948 moved to Canada, where he worked for the Montreal Gazette, married his first wife, and began to write potboilers under various pen names, as he would continue to do throughout ...more
More about Brian Moore...

Share This Book