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.ISBN: 0684817551 Read for the RIP Challenge
–Christopher Priest - The Prestige - c. 1995 - pg.3
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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.