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John Fowles’ now underappreciated novel is a mystical morality play on love, truth, maturity, reality and sexual and emotional betrayal. "The Magus" is set on a Greek island lush in the legends of Apollo, Artemis, Orpheus and Eurydice, and involves our protagonist, Nicholas Urfe, a mysterious island local and pretty young English ladies. While the year of the story is 1953 in the aftermath of WWII, in many ways it seems as timely as today.
If you read reviews, you won’t get much more of a description, other than below a Spoiler Alert heading. To explain it more would require pages and would, in many ways, be like explaining the recent novel “Gone Girl” or the movie “The Sixth Sense”: it would ruin the whole experience for you.
Like Gone Girl, I could NOT put it down. Truly in its own league, particularly considering it was published nearly 50 years ago.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful
What is written here must remain hidden. So now that you've scrolled down, let the game begin.
Hurry, let's unpack this quick. I felt like I've already spent far too much time being frustrated by the many curves, mysteries, deceptions in this book. I loved 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' and really, really liked 'The Collector' and there were many parts and many scenes from 'the Magus' that I really, really liked and even loved. But reading 'the Magus' reminded me of those novels one reads, and are far better read, when one is a nubile Freshman in college or a precocious HS Senior. I'm thinking of most of Tom Robbins, Chuck Palahniuk, JD Salinger, Ayn Rand, and Camus (to a certain extent). These are books that indeed can be considered literary (except for Ayn Rand), and have some form of magic buried within them that attracts the 20 y/o literary set. These are books that become fetish items. Carried, dog-earred, and flashed between the group to communicate their fealty to a group, game or club.
But looking back, they just don't seem to have the same magic or mystery for me. I should have read 'the Magus' in HS. I should have tried it all on sometime before I turned 30. It was smart, but the magic was gone, burned off, disappeared. The lights have been turned on. The big questions (for me, at this time in my life) seemed answered or perhaps just not that damn important. So, death.
Again, I love Fowles' prose, but part of this book felt like wading through azure pudding in a chemical fog. There were pages and pages where I just felt tired, exhausted, with burning eyes wondering why I kept turning the pages. Part Marquis de Sade, part 'Eyes Wide Shut', part PoMo philosophical exploration of freedom and love. Again, this ranks up there (I mean top, top tier) with the best novels that I really think I hate.
I did find a tidbit that might help those who are contemplating finishing this. In trying to explain different approaches to 'the Magus' Fowles explained to a young girl:
"But two approaches - The Magus is trying to suggest to Nicholas that reality, human existence is infinitely baffling. One gets one explanation - the CHristian, the psychological, the scientific ... but always it gets burnt off like summer mist and a new landscape-explanation appears. He suggests that the one valid reality or principle for us lies in eleutheria - freedom. Accept that man has the possibility for his actions. To be free (which means rejecting all the gods and political creeds and the rest) leaves one no choice but to act according to reason: that is, humanely to all humans."
45 of 49 people found this review helpful
This is one of my favourite novels which I have already read three times. I have enjoyed it on a whole new level with this stunning audiobook presentation. Nicholas Boulton does an amazing job. I cannot recommend it enough.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to The Magus the most enjoyable?
Form and content perfectly matched. A great reading from Nicholas Boulton of a very enjoyable and thought provoking book.
I am now 50 and have not revisited this novel (one of my favourites in my earlier years) in detail since I last read it in my 20's. It was still a riveting read, although - perhaps with maturity - I now see more of the things that don't quite work or seem dated. Overall, still electrifying with a strong propulisve narrative drive allied to a consideration of how to approach life and love.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Almost all the characters were interesting in some way, even if some worked far better than others.
What about Nicholas Boulton’s performance did you like?
I thought Nicholas Boulton's reading was absolutely outstanding - and that is what has driven me to this review - he deserves the credit. He pitched Nicolas Urfe's voice exactly how I imagined it: cynical and not entirely likeable, yet still eliciting a degree of sympathy with the listener. The supporting voices: various greeks, germans, women as well as men were also very well presented and clearly distinguishable - without turning them into caricatures. The pace and inflection of the reading was even, but varied where necessary in a nuanced and subtle way to underline and represent emotions.
If you made a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?
I wouldn't. It's already been tried with Michael Caine and although watchable could not really represent the ideas Fowles was bringing out in the novel.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
I first read this amazing story almost 40 years ago. It made a long lasting impression but in the time elapsed I found I had forgotten many things about the story.
Listening to Nicholas Boulton's brilliant rendition brought all the magic back.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I thought it slow to begin but worth persevering. Intriguing carefully wrought characters. Excellent narration.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful