The Magician: A Novel

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In his most recent novel The Magician Colm Toibin tackles the life of German author Thomas Mann. Much like his earlier work, The Master, which dealt with the life of Henry James, this latest book draws its magic not from the protagonist but from the cast of supporting characters that surrounds him.

Mann begins his life in relative privilege until the death of his father forces the family to tighten their purse strings. This embarrasses his mother and pushes her towards publicly supporting the literary aspirations of his elder brother Heinrich while pushing Thomas towards the more practical future of business. Thomas eventually surpasses his brother in talent and fame, though along the way he must deal with his own personal demons.

A love of other men discovered early in age, is repressed as he marries the most remarkable Katia, a Jewish woman whose biting wit gives the novel its color and life. As she and Thomas raise six children who refer to their father as “The Magician,” she is the closest readers can come to a fully realized character. Perhaps Toibin wanted to keep the audience at a distance to make his rendering of Mann more objective, but parts of the novel feel like research with a dash of fiction thrown in rather than the other way around.

The writing is beautiful, if at times a bit cold; if historical fiction is your thing, or you are simply interested in reading about Thomas Mann, this book will not disappoint.

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Author Colm Toibin
Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 512 pages
Publisher Scribner
Publish Date 07-Sep-2021
ISBN 9781476785080 Buy this Book
Issue December 2021
Category Historical Fiction