The Prestige – Christopher Priest

Published in 1995 and made into a successful movie in 2006, The Prestige is the ninth novel by acclaimed Sci Fi author, Christopher Priest.  Science Fiction is not a particularly familiar genre for me but this novel’s Victorian setting and story about rival magicians really appealed to me.

The story is told from the perspective of four different narrators, two from the present day, Andrew Westley and Kate Angier and two from the late 19th century, Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier.   Andrew and Kate are the descendants of Alfred and Rupert who were Victorian magicians embroiled in an, at times, vindictive feud which still has repercussions in the modern world.   The historical narrative is conveyed via journals/diaries so it’s a type of epistolary novel with most of the material focussing on Rupert Angier, the aristocrat who uses his financial advantages to purchase the secrets of each magic trick he performs whilst working class Alfred has to struggle for every penny.   Their feud is predictable in so far as it is difficult to pinpoint what was its catalyst – great disputes from little altercations grow.  

What I loved about The Prestige was the sensation of being immersed in Victorian music halls, allowed in on the secrets behind the illusions, witnessing each man striving to find that mind-blowing, inimitable illusion, seeing how far a man will go to be the best – in this case, half way across the world to enlist the help of scientist, Nikola Tesla!   Indeed, this novel keeps the readers on their toes, you can never be sure as to what is illusion and what is reality.  As usual, I found the modern day setting a bit flat but it’s a very small part of the story and does serve its purpose.  Borden and Angier are two extremely unlikeable characters, their self-obsessed, single-mindedness doing little to endear them to any reader but I found them all the more intriguing as a result.

There is no doubt that the last part of the novel is the most gripping so the opening chapters might seem a bit slow-paced in comparison but I enjoyed this gradual building up of tension.   If you like a taste of Gothic, an unsettling, eerie atmosphere and don’t need everything laid out for you in black and white, then you will savour this multi-layered tale of power struggles and intrigue.   I’m now looking forward to watching the film and seeing how it compares with the original novel.

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8 Comments

  1. Jessica says:

    I have had this on my TRB list ever since another blogger read it, I quite like those types of books so I’ll look forward to (eventually) reading it.

  2. Ellie says:

    I really enjoyed the film but found it a bit confusing so I think reading the book would be a good idea!

  3. I loved this book so I’m pleased that you enjoyed it too. The film is great (although the book is much better) and the great thing is that the film has a slightly different plot to the book so reading/watching one doesn’t spoil the other. Enjoy!

  4. Joanne says:

    This has been on my TBR list for ages – glad you enjoyed it.

  5. Treez says:

    Jessica and Joanne, hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

    Ellie, it will be interesting to compare and contrast our opinions of film versus book, whenever we get round to doing both!

    Jackie. it would appear that a lot of folk have enjoyed the book after watching the film, I first heard about this book on your blog so thank you for the recommendation! :-)

  6. FleurFisher says:

    I loved the film, but I wasn’t sure if I should read the book. You have convinced me that I must!

  7. admin says:

    Jane, I still haven’t watched the dvd, I tend to fall sleep half way through movies (not good for a 40 something!) I must try harder…

  8. I loved this book too, and agree that the modern strand was less gripping than the Victorian one who was totally compulsive. Loved the film too, especially Michael Caine as the magician’s backroom man.

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