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The Magic Shop
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Short Story/Novella Collection > The Magic Shop - September 2019

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message 1: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bob | 4959 comments Mod
Our September 2019 Short Story/Novella is
The Magic Shop by H.G. Wells.

Beware Short Story Discussions will have Spoilers.


message 2: by Powder River Rose (last edited Aug 31, 2019 08:20PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Powder River Rose (powderriverrose) | 152 comments Good, slightly spooky short.....so.....do we really "know" magic? The narration was excellent. I thought it odd that the father saw or thought he saw the soldiers move but once home he was no longer able to. I wonder if this was because of his hesitation to believe in "real magic" or the fear of his son vanishing but yet, he doesn't seem concerned about what the payment due might be.


message 3: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy (kathy_h) | 9558 comments Mod
One can read this online for free in several places:

Here is one: https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/well...


message 4: by Katy, New School Classics (new) - rated it 4 stars

Katy (kathy_h) | 9558 comments Mod
Yes, a little bit spooky. And a dose of adult unbelief.


George P. | 566 comments I found this at my nearby county library in the children's picture book section. The vocabulary in the story is clearly not appropriate for all but the most advanced younger kids, so I think it would work better in a short story collection in the YA section, which I think is available. I just sat down at the library and read it.
I thought the story very charming and enjoyed reading it. I liked how the child in the story was the "right kind" of child for the shop, that others weren't allowed. The boy's awe of the magic had a contagious effect on the reader as we identified with him and his father.


Powder River Rose (powderriverrose) | 152 comments George P. wrote: "I found this at my nearby county library in the children's picture book section. The vocabulary in the story is clearly not appropriate for all but the most advanced younger kids, so I think it wou..."

You have to be the "right kind" of child.....I wonder if that contagious awe of the magic and the shop is how the "real magicians" find someone to pass the knowledge on to. It is a good short story but I agree that it might be better suited to older children.


message 7: by Lynn, Revisit the Shelf (last edited Sep 01, 2019 04:38PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lynn (lynnsreads) | 3291 comments Mod
I found a nearly free kindle collection of H. G. Wells short stories. There were several spooky stories in the collection. I enjoyed The Magic Shop and also The Story of the Late Mr. Elvesham and The Inexperienced Ghost

"The Magic Shop" had so many nice elements that are found over and over in magical stories. I like how the shop never seemed to be in the same place twice. Only those meant to come in could open the door. This idea is repeated in the Harry Potter books with the special platform for the train to Hogwarts, or the difficulties in locating Dagon Alley.

I also liked how although there was a possibility of danger, nothing really gruesome happened.


Bobbie | 98 comments I really enjoyed this book and found it fascinating. My copy was a children's book from the library but I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Franky | 154 comments I read this one in one sitting as it was such a quick read. I enjoyed it and I like the ambiguity of whether the magic is more sinister or just playful fun. I also liked how there is a different in perspective from the adult to the child in how they view the magic, the adult being concerned and the child being fascinated. Fun read. I think this is the type that book that should be read aloud or listened to an audio, but I also think it would make an excellent picture book.


Powder River Rose (powderriverrose) | 152 comments Frank, the audio version is excellent and only 25 minutes. I’ve never seen a picture book that would be interesting.


message 11: by J_BlueFlower (last edited Sep 03, 2019 09:36AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

J_BlueFlower (j_from_denmark) | 1671 comments Found in epub and mobi at Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11870
as story XXIX. — THE MAGIC SHOP.

(Be careful though, easy to get court by something else. ”The Country Of The Blind.”, ”A Dream Of Armageddon.” …. tempting....)

I read the story as real magic. What shop would move like that and not let people pay. I think the major point is the looming payment. Is this a Faustian deal?

Seen with modern eyes: Lead figures?! Yes, there is a “payment” there. Lead in toys where banned very late. (Quick googling says 1978 in the US). Probably HG Wells did not think about this as part of the story.


message 12: by Emmy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emmy (emmy205) | 198 comments I loved that the story starts out innocently enough, but quickly gets darker (but ONLY from the perspective of the father). The child is having a blast, whispering with the shopkeeper, and trying out all the tricks and toys. It was great, because from the innocent perspective of a child, this is a veritable wonderland. But, the father sees something more. My question for you: is he just paranoid or is there more to the situation than meets the eye?


message 13: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 1574 comments This story started out in a quirky manner but it got darker when they went into the showroom. I had a really bad feeling when they were playing hide and seek, so the ending was a real relief.


message 14: by Emmy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emmy (emmy205) | 198 comments Rosemarie wrote: "This story started out in a quirky manner but it got darker when they went into the showroom. I had a really bad feeling when they were playing hide and seek, so the ending was a real relief."

I agree! And I liked that it was somewhat ambiguous at the same time. The son says that the soldiers will play on their own. But, is that just him being imaginative? Or do they really come alive? Love it!


Karen Michele Burns (klibrary) | 96 comments I also loved this story! The blend of foreboding and the curiosity of childhood was engaging and unsettling. I felt like the story portrayed how a parent is always on the watch and often cannot get absorbed in the joy of a situation, yet I was kind of nervous throughout the story myself.


message 16: by Emmy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emmy (emmy205) | 198 comments I wonder what this story would have felt like if you read it as a child. Would you have noticed the father's fear, or would you be absorbed in the excitement, too?


message 17: by Rosemarie (new)

Rosemarie | 1574 comments I don't know if I would have understood it as well as a child. I generally didn't like stories about magicians. I preferred fairy tales.


Heather L  (wordtrix) | 337 comments J_BlueFlower wrote: "Seen through modern eyes: Lead figures?! Yes, there is a payment there.... Probably HG Wells did not think about this as part of the story.."

As the story was originally published in 1903, the effects of lead poisoning would not have been as well-known as it was mid-century. The first official restrictions in the US were released by the American Standards Association in 1954, with a ban on lead paint/toys in 1978. However, traces of lead can still be found in some foreign-made toys from countries with less stringent laws and standards.

Extreme exposure to lead compounds can cause hallucinations, so if you want to look at the story from a realistic point of view, that could explain why an imaginative child might think his soldiers move on their own—or why the father thinks a shop assistant’s face contorts the way it does. As it also causes memory loss, it would explain why the shop never seems to be in the same place or doesn’t appear to exist at all.


message 19: by Milena (last edited Sep 05, 2019 12:45PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Milena | 257 comments I watched this video by Alfred Hitchcock, based on Wells's story.
The story develops differently from the original. It's an interesting hypothesis about "what would happen if". The end is appalling.
I said that it's a different story, but maybe it's not so different after all. Maybe it's Hitchcock's explanation as to why the adult father sees magic as something dark.


message 20: by Melanie (new)

Melanie I enjoyed this but I think my expectations kind of ruined it. It's H.G.Wells, so I was expecting a darker sci-fi, so this one was unexpectedly sweet! I think the ending leaves a little bit too much open though. There's an iffy feeling that hangs over you all through this and then it doesn't really go anywhere, so you end up feeling even more iffy! I guess that's the point though!

The thing about Gip being the "right kind of child" reminded me of Willy Wonka and his Golden tickets.


message 21: by Terris (last edited Sep 06, 2019 07:17PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Terris | 2611 comments I read this one today and really enjoyed it! It was fun to wonder if the "magic" was real and the differences between what the father saw and what the son saw. I liked the disappearing door at the end giving the feeling of "did that really just happen?" And the boy seeing the soldiers move when the father couldn't (because he was an adult and no longer had the ability to believe?). And the mysterious ending of the "bill" not having been paid -- Or had it been? Will it be paid in the future? And by whom? And what will the final payment be? the boy?
I love the questionable, mysterious ending!


message 22: by Lynn, Revisit the Shelf (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lynn (lynnsreads) | 3291 comments Mod
Melanie wrote: "I enjoyed this but I think my expectations kind of ruined it. It's H.G.Wells, so I was expecting a darker sci-fi, so this one was unexpectedly sweet! I think the ending leaves a little bit too much..."

Oh yes, definitely like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory / "Willy Wonka".


message 23: by Julia (last edited Sep 07, 2019 05:41AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Julia | 20 comments I found it more sinister than sweet. I wanted to punch the magic man. Some interesting lines:

“You, you know, are the Right Sort of Boy.”
I was surprised at his knowing that, because in the interest of discipline, we keep it rather a secret, even at home.
What is the secret? Does Gip have magical powers? What’s with Gip’s name (Gibbles)? Like Gypsy?

. . . solidiers that all came alive directly you took the lid off and said—-. I haven’t a very quick ear and it was a tongue-twisting sound—but Gip, he has his mother’s ear—got it in no time. More evidence of the same. Did Gip inherit his magical powers from his mom?

Are we all then no better than brushed exteriors, whited sepulchres— Oh, just creepy. Are you a demon yourself, magic man?

Even though it appears to have a benign ending, the power of the magic shop owner, who is associated with elements of hell and evil in the story, could essentially lure the child away and make him disappear—that seems utterly scary, like a Pied Piper type of scary or child molester.

J_Blueflower, I like your insight about the Faustian deal.


message 24: by Emmy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emmy (emmy205) | 198 comments Terris wrote: "I read this one today and really enjoyed it! It was fun to wonder if the "magic" was real and the differences between what the father saw and what the son saw. I liked the disappearing door at the ..."

This is an interesting idea. Is the boy the final payment for the magic and surprises inside the shop? What makes it more sinister (if you take this track) is that the father really didn't have the chance to say yes or no...he just ends up outside of the shop. So, if a deal had been made, he really had no part in it.

Although, you could also take this the other way. In most "deals with the devil" in literature, you have to sign over your soul (either figuratively or literally), but there is usually some sort of contract or signature. As far as I can tell, the father did no such thing.


Terris | 2611 comments Emmy wrote: "Terris wrote: "I read this one today and really enjoyed it! It was fun to wonder if the "magic" was real and the differences between what the father saw and what the son saw. I liked the disappeari..."

Sure, I agree. I don't think the father intentionally made any kind of deal. But I think he might be thinking "What did I just do?" and "What price might I end up having to pay?" Just interesting to think on :)


message 26: by Canavan (new)

Canavan I had not previously read this story by Wells, although I was vaguely aware of its existence. Like some of the others commenting, I lean towards a darker reading of this tale. I tend to see in it a sort of allegory of that point in the father-son relationship when the father’s central (perhaps even heroic) status in the eyes of his son starts to weaken. I think we see this most poignantly in the passage where our narrator sees “with a qualm of distrust and something very like jealousy that Gip had hold of this person’s finger as usually he had hold of mine.” The ending, while not explicit, seems to me to speak to the inevitability of this process.

✭✭✭½


Petrichor | 300 comments Julia wrote: "Some interesting lines:"

I really like your interpretation of that! I thought the "right kind" is fascination and maybe being a good kid. I totally missed the we keep it rather a secret, even at home, indicating that it is more than that.


Petrichor | 300 comments J_BlueFlower wrote: "Is this a Faustian deal?"

Interesting thought! I agree with Emmy. I think you have to make such a kind of deal knowingly. However, maybe the son is going to make such a deal in the future, paying a delayed price for his own toys.
What we observed in the story might just have been the first step of luring / recruiting / brainwashing the boy into such a deal. Now, as a child, he won't question it too much. Later, as an adult, he will have all of those positive associations and happy childhood memories about the subject, which, as an adult (had he not had these memories), he might have rejected like his father.


message 29: by Emmy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emmy (emmy205) | 198 comments Petrichor wrote: "J_BlueFlower wrote: "Is this a Faustian deal?"

Interesting thought! I agree with Emmy. I think you have to make such a kind of deal knowingly. However, maybe the son is going to make such a deal i..."


Ah, a twist! The plot thickens...


George P. | 566 comments Heather L wrote: The first official restrictions in the US were released by the American Standards Association in 1954, with a ban on lead paint/toys in 1978. However, traces of lead can still be found in some foreign-made toys from countries with less stringent laws and standards...."

Older folks like me can remember lead soldiers. In the early 60s my brother was given a mold kit to make lead soldiers from chunks of lead, melting it in a small pan over electric heat; he let me do it occasionally. We were about 12 years old.
We didn't have seat belts in the cars until the mid-60s either, I think.


message 31: by Emmy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emmy (emmy205) | 198 comments George P. wrote: "Heather L wrote: The first official restrictions in the US were released by the American Standards Association in 1954, with a ban on lead paint/toys in 1978. However, traces of lead can still be f..."

While I don't think I would want my kids playing with lead (or melting things over a hot surface), it sounds like a cool idea--make your own toy soldiers. I bet you and your brother had a lot of fun with that kit.


J_BlueFlower (j_from_denmark) | 1671 comments I agree (and happily disagree with myself): It is not a Faustian deal, since a Faustian deal requires that you know what you are trading. The farther does not know what the payment is. Does that make it even more spooky that the payment is unknown?

I don’t know what the story is really trying to say. (And it surprises me that HG Wells would write a story without a clear end. I have read 5 of his novels. I though I knew his style.)

I see three possibilities:

1. The payment is unknown. It will be due at some point.

2. The shopkeeper did not really give the boy anything. He had it all inside himself already - being the right kind.

3. The shopkeeper gave away a lot of good stuff completely for free.

I believe in 1 because of the last line of the story.


message 33: by Emmy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emmy (emmy205) | 198 comments J_BlueFlower wrote: "I agree (and happily disagree with myself): It is not a Faustian deal, since a Faustian deal requires that you know what you are trading. The farther does not know what the payment is. Does that ma..."

I think you brought up some excellent points. And I think, of the three options you outlined, it's #2. The boy was the "right kind", so he would have the imagination and the magic inside of him. The father's fears are not quite literal. He's not scared of the shopkeeper, per se, but what he represents. And what he represents is that eventually there will come a time when his son will start to drift away from him, when he'll hold on to other hands the way that he once held his father's, where he will look up to different people, and explore a world that his father will not be a part of. Perhaps this whole story is a fear of one's children growing up.


message 34: by Suzie (new)

Suzie | 85 comments I enjoyed the story but am getting so much more out of this discussion!

I had the feeling that Gip would vanish permanently, so was a bit surprised when he reappeared. The final sentence regarding the bill leaves it to the readers' imagination to wonder what the payment will be


message 35: by Canavan (new)

Canavan Emmy said (in part):

Perhaps this whole story is a fear of one's children growing up.

Yes.


message 36: by Petrichor (last edited Sep 17, 2019 06:02AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Petrichor | 300 comments J_BlueFlower wrote: "I agree (and happily disagree with myself): It is not a Faustian deal, since a Faustian deal requires that you know what you are trading. The farther does not know what the payment is. Does that ma..."

I definitely think it's #1 (the boy will pay) or #3 (but then the shopkeeper pays)
Even the shopkeeper mentions that there is a price to pay after Gip packs up the balls which had appeared out of body parts and pockets:

"We get all our smaller tricks in that way," the shopman remarked.
I laughed in the manner of one who subscribes to a jest. "Instead of going to the wholesale shop," I said. "Of course, it's cheaper."
"In a way," the shopman said. "Though we pay in the end. But not so heavily--as people suppose. . . .



message 37: by Mela (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mela (melabooks) | 14 comments I did enjoy listening to it (from LibriVox), but much more I have enjoyed reading this discussion about what was the story about. Thank you all.


message 38: by Tami (new) - added it

Tami (pdxbridgegirl) I read this at the first of the month and decided to give it another look this afternoon. I enjoyed this little story a lot. The second read-through was more enjoyable, in truth. It was sort of MAGIC how it became a different story the second time. Since I wasn't worried about the little boy the second time I paid more attention to little details of the story and the sentences.

I appreciate these little opportunities to become a better reader.


message 39: by Emmy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Emmy (emmy205) | 198 comments Tami wrote: "I read this at the first of the month and decided to give it another look this afternoon. I enjoyed this little story a lot. The second read-through was more enjoyable, in truth. It was sort of MAG..."

This makes me want to read the story again now.....I'll see if I have some extra time today!


message 40: by Suki (last edited Oct 02, 2019 04:19AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 76 comments I loved this story-- I generally like HG Wells anyway, but I think this is one of my favorite pieces by him. I love the ambiguity, and just the suggestion of darkness-- he doesn't get heavy-handed with it, but he leaves us with an uncomfortable feeling.

I really appreciated everyone's comments on this thread-- it gave me lots to think about!


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