The Prestige by

It began on a train, heading north through England, although I was soon to discover that the story had really begun more than a hundred years earlier.
Christopher Priest - The Prestige - c. 1995 - pg.3

The Prestige by Christopher Priest

ISBN: 0684817551 Read for the RIP Challenge
See also: LibraryThing ; Fantasybookspot ; Review in Haiku

The Prestige is a book that covers three different generations of two families, told by a number of different narrators, all in the first person, as they tell their stories in their diaries. Those of you who have seen the film version will be aware that the prestige of the title is the payoff to a magic trick. What you might not know is that this term was invented by Priest but has since come into common usage among practising magicians. The main story revolves around two feuding magicians; Alfred Borden and Rupert “Robbie” Angier. Throughout both of their careers the two magicians try their hardest to upset and humiliate the other, each action then having a reaction, and then a further action, as is often the way in these things.

In a way I regret having seen the film because it meant that I knew what was going on when I should really have been trying to figure it out. But then again, if I’d never seen the film I may never have heard of the author, or picked up this book so I shouldn’t complain. And there are huge differences between the plot of the film and that of the book. However the rivalry between the two magicians dominates both and I’d say that the film follows the atmosphere and style of the book, even if it alters several key episodes. And for some reason, while I had no problem imagining Bale as the character in the book, I can’t say the same for Jackson.

As a result of the way this book is written you come to know both sides of the story, you get to see how both magicians are wrong, and wronged at the same the time. And how despite regretting much of what they have done they just can’t see a way to get past the feud. And then there is the secrecy and obsession that is really at the heart of this novel. Both characters have their secrets, their own personal obsessions that they will never stop pursuing.

I really enjoyed this novel; despite feeling that I knew too much it succeeded in gripping my attention. The characters were perfectly drawn and totally believable. Priest also manages to make the feud almost understandable from both perspectives. The modern characters didn’t interest me quite as much, but then again they had a lot less time “on-screen”, so to speak. You could argue that parts of it are a little slow; after all telling the story from different perspectives means that certain scenes are repeated, albeit from a different viewpoint or interpretation. The resolution of the book is very different from the film, and I’m not quite sure if the final scene works, but it does linger in the mind a little.

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7 Responses

  1. Harlequin says:

    I've had this book for ages but still haven't gotten around to reading it due to brain-freeze during the exam season and then forgetting I had it. Bought it at the same time as Snow Falling on Cedars which I finally read last week. May take The Prestige with me on my trip to Sligo which should force me to get on with reading it.

    I don't think either Rupert Angier or Alfred Borden could hold a candle to that greatest of all magicians – Gob "A trick is something a whore does for money" Bluth. :-)

  2. Court says:

    I read this book a few years before seeing the movie, and I loved it. I can certainly imagine how different it would have been had I seen the movie first and therefore knew how it was going to end. Happy to hear that you enjoyed it, and this was a really good choice for the RIP challenge. :)

  3. Fence says:

    Sounds like a plan H :) Tis a good read.

    Court did you see the film as well?

  4. I'd give the edge to the book over the film. If I hadn't read the book first, I think I would have found the movie rather confusing. It seemed a bit disjointed, at least in the first half hour or so.

  5. jean pierre says:

    hmmm…! i think i'll be reading this first then! thanks for the review.

  6. Court says:

    Yeah, I did see the movie, so I knew what was going to happen while I was watching it. This is one of the few times I'm actually happy they made the changes to the story that they did – I didn't know 100% what to expect while watching the movie, so it still surprised me a bit at parts. But I still definiely prefer the book to the movie.

  1. 31 October 2007

    […] news Carl’s RIP Challenge comes to an end today. And for it I read Fool Moon by Jim Butcher, The Prestige by Christopher Priest, Danse Macabre by Laurell K. Hamilton, Wormwood by Poppy Z.Brite, Lost Souls […]