Monday, December 11, 2017

Christopher Priest's: The Prestige A Book Review

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After watching Christopher Nolan’s film version of The Prestige countless times, I finally got around to reading Christopher Priest’s novel on which Nolan based his film. In part to clarify what Nolan did for a film theory class I teach, I endeavored to see how the novel is presented and the depth of the text itself. Presented as three dueling narratives, Priest attacks the magicians’ battle in an intriguing way. 

Starting with the near present, we are presented with the descendants of both Borden and Angier. While neither is particularly knowledgeable of their ancestors’ past, they stumble into each other almost by chance. It is here that we discover a mysterious death (of Borden’s great grandson or his twin) and meticulous records preserved by Lord Caldlow. At this point, the reader is exposed to two diaries, first we see the events from the perspective of Borden and then Angier, before a final ending climax between their last remaining heirs.   

Starting with a humble beginning we see everything that leads Borden to be a magician and, from his perspective/perspectives, the reader understands the battle he wages with Angier. Spanning decades, at times Borden seeks to leave the duel, but the games of one-upmanship keep the best of him. Even in their final interaction, Borden struggles, not wanting to interrupt Angier’s take on Borden’s trick but unable to stop himself from understanding the secret at the same time. In Borden’s mind, the reader feels mystique and wonder and pain. Much more so than in Nolan’s film, the conceit is played out right before the reader’s eyes, and this secret keeps the pages turning.

Conversely, we inhabit Angier’s journal as well. He teaches us of the struggles of being the second son of a wealthy family and the intense pain that the loss of a loved one can cause. He digs into his drive to be a great magician, to support his family, and to do something that he is not that good at to begin with. He too enlightens the reader to the battle, the drive to achieve, and in his eyes we discover the tricks of Borden. The interplay between the two, the back and forth, pushes the novel. While at times it drags, keeping the tricks back almost as a joke, at others it plunges forward in mysticism and the unexpected. A strong read for those looking to be entertained, and for fans of the film, for those who want to know all the stories and the variances therein, check it out.