The Magician's Assistant

Paperback edition released 04/02/1999

by Ann Patchett

Modern and Contemporary Fiction Literary Fiction

LoveReading Expert Review of The Magician's Assistant

Compelling drama about fairly ordinary folks

I only discovered Patchett recently, with her most recent novel, The Dutch House, and felt swept away by her lyrical prose and sharply drawn characters. She writes compelling dramas about fairly ordinary folks, and makes it look easy when it’s anything but. She’s not a thriller writer, but her stories reveal secrets in that peeling-the-layers-of-an-onion way that the best crime writers have mastered. In this novel, the title character, Sabine, learns after his death that the magician she worked with for years, and eventually married, had a previous life he’d never told her about. The reasons behind his secrecy seem straightforward enough at the beginning, but as Sabine gets to know his family she’d never known existed, the truth is jaw-droppingly seismic. 

Selected by Linwood Barclay, Our Autumn 2021 Guest Editor. Click here to read the full Guest Editor Piece.


The Magician's Assistant Synopsis

Shortlisted for The Women's Prize for Fiction.

From the bestselling author of The Dutch House, Commonwealth and Bel Canto, Winner of The Women's Prize for Fiction and the Pen/Faulkner Award.

A magician (with one memorable appearance on the Johnny Carson Show to his credit) takes the name Parsifal. He is gay. He has a Vietnamese lover, Phan. When Phan dies of AIDS, Parsifal marries the woman who has always adored him and who has lived with them both, his assistant Sabine.

Then Parsifal himself dies in California, suddenly and shockingly, of an aneurysm. Parsifal always said that he had no living family and that he came from wealthy upscale Connecticut stock. The reality is very different, as Sabine learns from his lawyer. He came from a poor Nebraska family and they are very much alive. Indeed his mother and sister are on their way to California to meet Sabine, the daughter- and sister-in-law they know nothing about. It is bad that her husband has died. What Sabine must now cope with is coming to terms with his horrific past and the reason he divorced himself from his family and roots.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9781857028157
Publication date: 4th February 1999
Author: Ann Patchett
Publisher: 4th Estate an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 368 pages
Primary Genre Modern and Contemporary Fiction
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Ann Patchett Press Reviews

'Original, sparkling, funny and sad - a book you read in one gulp and want to revisit immediately' Penelope Lively, Daily Telegraph

'A delicate exploration of impossible love and new-found friendship' Guardian

'The kindliness of The Magician's Assistant is beguiling, and Patchett is an adroit, graceful writer' Suzanne Berne, New York Times Book Review

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781857028157
Publication date: 04/02/1999
Format: Paperback

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About Ann Patchett

Ann Patchett is the author of four previous novels, including Bel Canto, which won the Orange prize. She writes for the New York Times Magazine, Elle, GQ, The Paris Review and Vogue. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Run, published by Bloomsbury in August 2007, and in paperback in June 2008, is a moving story of overlapping lives.   Author photo © Melissa Ann Pinney   Fellow novelist KERRY REICHS on ANN PATCHETT Pretty much anything Ann Patchett ever wrote is a sure thing in my book.  I first read Bel Canto, and quickly followed it with everything else.  Patchett’...

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