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Book Discussion - The Prestige by Christopher Priest

In a recent discussion it became obvious that while all of us have seen the movie, none of us have read the film was based on!

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Multiple copies of this book are available through the Enoch Pratt Free Library.


Priest, one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists (1983 list), has not been overproductive since he made a small reputation with The Affirmation and The Glamour, published here more than a dozen years ago. His new novel (the title of which refers to the residue left after a magician's successful trick) is enthrallingly odd. In a carefully calculated period style that is remarkably akin to that of the late Robertson Davies, Priest writes of a pair of rival magicians in turn-of-the-century London. Each has a winning trick the other craves, but so arcane is the nature of these tricks, so incredibly difficult are they to perform, that they take on a peculiar life of their own?in one case involving a mysterious apparent double identity, in the other a reliance on the ferocious powers unleashed in the early experimental years of electricity. The rivalry of the two men is such that in the end, though both are ashamed of the strength of their feelings of spite and envy, it consumes them both, and affects their respective families for generations. This is a complex tale that must have been extremely difficult to tell in exactly the right sequence, while still maintaining a series of shocks to the very end. Priest has brought it off with great imagination and skill. It's only fair to say, though, that the book's very considerable narrative grip is its principal virtue. The characters and incidents have a decidedly Gothic cast, and only the restraint that marks the story's telling keeps it on the rails.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc

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  • Brian D.

    So driving home I was still thinking about the book and it occurred to me that along the theme of identity it is interesting that not only did the Bordens create third separate identity, they also created a stage identity. Likewise, Angier created a new, common, identity to leave his noble family name name behind, then he became a spiritualist, then he became the "Great Danton." Is this adoption and rejection of new names and personae a reflection of the shades/prestige material created by the tesla machine?

    September 21, 2012

    • Brian D.

      Good Point! and that is our second Star Trek reference for this book!

      September 21, 2012

    • Sue Ellen Wilhelm W.

      I don't think Angier was ever more than one personality, however diluted or continued.

      September 21, 2012

  • Lisa K.

    I don't mind endings that are cliff hangers or ambiguous with respect to one question or issue but this book left too much hanging. It's as if I look away at the wrong moment and missed the main event. What happend?

    The story line between Angier and Borden was fascinating. I wonder if the whole story itself was writen in the same format as the magic trick with "The Pledge", "The Turn", then "the prestige". But which parts of the book was which?

    The Story line of the grandchildren just had too many wholes.

    1 · September 11, 2012

    • Brian D.

      I also didn't feel like the grandchildren added much to the story except to add a framing.

      September 11, 2012

    • Brian D.

      I'm patiently awaiting Dan's blog on this one. I shared his blog on "player of games" with a group of my co-workers today!

      September 11, 2012

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