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

The Magician's Assistant

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  34,803 ratings  ·  3,444 reviews
Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9781857028157

Sabine-- twenty years a magician's assistant to her handsome, charming husband-- is suddenly a widow. In the wake of his death, she finds he has left a final trick; a false identity and a family allegedly lost in a tragic accident but now revealed as very much alive and well. Named as heirs in his will, they enter Sabine's life
Paperback, 357 pages
Published December 1st 1998 by Fourth Estate (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 Assistant, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Susan As Sabine, the central character, has just lost her husband, I think describing her as having a "woe is me act" is pretty harsh. I found this novel to…moreAs Sabine, the central character, has just lost her husband, I think describing her as having a "woe is me act" is pretty harsh. I found this novel to be a thought-provoking exploration of grief, identity and the stories we tell ourselves.(less)
Allison Parsifal always knew who to pick from the audience and would have realized that Howard was the sort of insecure bully who would never let his guard do…moreParsifal always knew who to pick from the audience and would have realized that Howard was the sort of insecure bully who would never let his guard down enough to be in on the joke. Howard was always outside even in his own family. He was so angry and nasty to everyone all the time that he couldn’t ever laugh along with them. If they were having fun he would assume it was at his expense. If his ego wasn’t being actively bolstered he would be sullen or angry. He took the fun of the trick to be a personal slight, especially since he had started to buy into her playing of him. A confident person would enjoy the humor in realizing they had been played. Howard didn’t have it in him. Sabine reaized this too late.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  34,803 ratings  ·  3,444 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Magician's Assistant
Aug 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 24, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-club, kindling
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
Aug 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
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 inher
Mar 24, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, fiction
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
Aug 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: united-states, queer
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
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was fantastic and I am thrilled that I chose it as my first Patchett novel. There is so much tenderness in this beautiful story; each character (even the dastardly “villain”) is developed and handled with such care; I didn’t want the story to end because of the people involved. There is sadness here, and secrets and complicated family dynamics and love...and love...and MAGIC. Oh, and of course there’s a rabbit too. Time spent with this book was simply delightful.
Carol Moore
Aug 23, 2012 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Lyn Elliott
Apr 03, 2020 rated it liked it
When I was about two thirds of the way through The Magician’s Apprentice, I seriously doubted that I was going to finish it. The story seemed to be bogging down in an uncomfortable snowbound Nebraska household, domestic violence was in the atmosphere and I didn't want to spend time in that space. So I did what I often do now, I read the last 15 pages or so to see how it ends, and whether it would be worth persisting.

Well, the ending was such a surprise there was no way I could work out what had
Mar 06, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Book Concierge
Digital audio book performed by Karen Ziemba

From the book jacket: Sabine – twenty years a magician’s assistant to her handsome, charming husband – is suddenly a widow. In the wake of his death, she finds he has left a final trick: a false identity and a family allegedly lost in a tragic accident but now revealed as very much alive and well. Named as heirs in his will, they enter Sabine’s life and set her on an adventure of unraveling his secrets, from sunny Los Angeles to the windswept pla
Barbara H
Sep 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Jessica Woodbury
May 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I already knew Ann Patchett has a certain unique magic to build these deep and interesting character-driven stories, but I also knew that she's a shapeshifter who can move through all kinds of settings and people. There are a lot of books about romantic or familial love, but this book is about a rather unique little corner of love that is not quite right, redirected love, the kind that isn't perfect but that takes what it can. What a lovely and heartfelt book.

Sabine is newly a widow at the begin
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.

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
Una Tiers
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Five stars with reluctance since I couldn't describe what the attraction this book had for me. Whether it was the grass is greener concept or we're all the same, or the draw of magic. The sad life of Sabine moved to a new chapter although she will likely continue to live propelled with other people's direction.
I absolutely loved the character of the rabbit who seemed a cross between a cat and dog.
Jun 23, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: contemporary-lit
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
Will Byrnes
Oct 07, 2008 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 06, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club, adult
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.
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
Oct 22, 2008 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own-on-kindle
Maybe I am biased when it comes to Ann Patchett but I just loved loved loved this book. Wonderful story about Sabina who is wife, partner and friend for more than 20 years to Parsifal, a magician. After Parsifal dies Sabine finds out that he has a Mother, two sisters and two nephews living in Nebraska that she never knew anything about. The book is about love and relationships, family, magic, secrets and friendship. So beautifully written, just loved it highly recommend.
Dec 26, 2016 rated it liked it
This was the 5th Ann Patchett novel I've read, but the 2nd of those chronologically. It was...interesting.

Within the first 50 pages or so, you know quite a few things about Sabine: (view spoiler)
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
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
I truly love Ann Patchett's writing. Her characters are deep and raw and flawed and so human. They are so well presented and developed so that by the end I have a clear vision of who they are...even if they don't know have such a clear view of themselves.
I love love loved the characters and they made this book so good.
This book was such a beautiful and emotion description of deep grief from different point of views. The inside of Sabine's mind was an interesting place to be and I enjoyed learnin
Lois Duncan
Jul 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is the first book by Ann Patchett I've ever read. It won't be my last.

For 20 years Sabine has been the assistant to the brilliant magician, Parsifal, with whom she has also been obsessively in love. But Parsifal is gay, and his lover, Phan, is part of this trio of characters. Unsavory as this may sound, it seems to work well for them.

Then Phan dies -- Parsifal, feeling his own death is nearing -- marries Sabine so that she can inherit his and Phan's estates. But, once she's a widow, the gri
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
Sep 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: alternative cover edition 2 9 Nov 25, 2020 10:19PM  
The Magician's Assistant 2 10 Apr 18, 2020 08:23PM  
Play Book Tag: The Magician's Assistant / Ann Patchett - 3.5*** 1 10 Nov 27, 2017 04:32PM  
What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Hilarious flight in snowstorm [s] 8 82 Dec 24, 2014 05:11PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Reverend's Other Son
  • Redhead by the Side of the Road
  • Olive, Again
  • The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
  • The Vanishing Half
  • The Glass Hotel
  • All Adults Here
  • Everything My Mother Taught Me
  • Writers & Lovers
  • Nothing to See Here
  • The Night Watchman
  • Stay
  • One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow
  • All the Devils Are Here (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #16)
  • American Dirt
  • Olive Kitteridge (Olive Kitteridge, #1)
  • Autobiography of a Face
  • The Book of Longings
See similar books…
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

Related Articles

Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman know the radical life-changing power of a good friendship. The two launched their hit podcast Call Your...
75 likes · 11 comments
“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.” 10 likes
“I don’t want to wind up some old woman who talks to her rabbit,” she said to Rabbit, who was chewing so furiously he didn’t even bother to lift his head.” 5 likes
More quotes…