Contented Reader

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The Magicians

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The Magicians

Lev Grossman

Viking

Once upon a time, I was a young fundamentalist, and my mother would read the Chronicles of Narnia aloud to me, and I would read them myself.  Insatiably, voraciously.  I couldn’t even begin to estimate how many times I have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Thirty?  More?  My favorites were The Silver Chair and The Voyage of the ‘Dawn Treader’.  I wanted to be Lucy, small but valiant, meeting astonishing people, learning amazing things.

Once I got a lot older, the books lost a lot of their charm.  The Christian allegory which was exciting to me at 12 was heavy-handed and annoying as an adult reader.  The middle-class British wholesomeness seemed like a facade.  But those books were the best friends of my childhood and even of my adolescence, and there’ll always be a part of me that wants to be Lucy.

Lev Grossman gets it.  The Magicians is a little bit of Harry Potter and a lot of C.S. Lewis, moved into a world much more like our own, in which, yes, magic works, but young adults drink and use drugs and curse and have ill-advised sex, and in which things don’t always work out for the best, and adventures don’t always have happy endings, and the one thing you can count on is that getting the thing you want most will be a crushing disappointment.  Welcome to Brakebills, which is Hogwarts for real American teenagers, and welcome to Fillory, which is Narnia populated by adults who don’t care about your adventure.

Reading this book a second time, while I wait for my turn to read The Magician King to come up on the public library’s reserve list, I was blown away, even more than the first time I read it.  There’s a level of truth to this fantasy that is sometimes painful, but somehow comforting, too.  Yes, this is your real life.  It isn’t going to end with ‘further up and further in.’  It’s going to be confusing, and disappointing, and sometimes it will delight you, and it’s going to be a lot more complicated than you ever would have expected after a childhood of reading Narnian adventures.

It really is an astonishing book.

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Written by Contented Reader

September 25, 2011 at 5:47 pm

Posted in Reviews

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