I saw a number of readers on the web named this the best novel they had ever read, so I thought I better try it.
Great story, a contemporary classic, which grabbed me right away. The first 50 pages is probably my favourite part of the book. In my opinion a book that can recapture your desire for reading. An excellent twentysomething novel full of colourful characters and surprises. A bestseller when it was initially released.
This is the most recent addition into my current top 10 novels, I read it over the summer, it’s a long read of over 600 pages. But then again so is Harry Potter.
Suitable for vacation time, the story is like taking a journey to a foreign country, most of the plot takes place on a remote Greek island, 8 hours south of Athens. Author Fowles has created a world I looked forward to immerse myself into and savour. I really felt like I had been to the island, even though it was obviously only in my mind I had travelled.
The book begins in the UK. Set in 1953, the richly described protagonist is 25-year-old English teacher Nicolas Urfe. He is emotionally detached, struggling to find his place in life both in terms of his work, and relationships. He is unsure if he wants to continue teaching. Without giving too much away, on his trip to a Greek island he befriends Maurice Conchis, a mysterious recluse, who is likewise vividly described. Conchis becomes a mentor figure and shapes Nicolas in a way he couldn’t have predicted.
A story about the opposite sex and the difficulties of growing into an adult. But also about secrets, psychological games, manipulation, seduction, trust, the difference between truth and illusion, and the dark side of human nature. Much like the main character Nicolas, the reader must try to interpret what is real and what is not, which is half the fun.
A quote from page 477:
“Wasn’t going to buy it. You weren’t really expected to. She gave me another quick smile. If you can imagine playing chess, but not to win...merely to see what moves the other person makes”If you are unaware of the term, a magus is a sorcerer or magician. I never felt the novel was written 50 years ago, I felt it has aged remarkably well. John Fowles himself wrote the story based on personal experiences of teaching at a boarding school on a Greek island in 1952-53, which is probably why the novel felt so personal.
The 1968 movie version was poorly received and Fowles himself was unhappy with the result. Maybe one of those books which is un-filmable and consequently works better as a novel.
It probably inspired the movies Sleuth (1972) and The man with the golden gun (1974), which I really like, although The Magus is streets ahead of both in my mind in terms of plot twists. I will never forget The Magus. Unlike anything I have ever read before, a hypnotic read, very original. Knowledge of literary references and Greek mythology is helpful, but not essential.
It’s in "1001 books you must read before you die", and so it should be. Highly recommended. 9/10. The only reason I'm not giving it 10/10 is because the book could have been shorter with some better editing.
Readers, any thoughts?