This is a brilliant and engrossing novel. I won’t say too much about the plot, except that it rattles along and is moving in many different ways. But the story matters so I won’t write anything here that might spoil it for those who have yet to read the book.
It was recommended to me in the highest possible terms by a voracious reader of American fiction and I was not disappointed.
The book is constructed around the development of comic books in the 1930s and 1940s. That makes it sound geeky – it assuredly is not. But the parallels and overlaps with the comic book genre are delightful to identify as the story unfolds. Even the ending invites the question ‘sequel?’, which is I am sure another deliberate link.
Performance magic and illusion plays a bit part in the story and it reminded me that this is becoming a bit of a genre in its own right. Last year I read Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold; and a while ago I read The Bullet Trick by Louise Welsh. The protagonists in both novels are magicians and I think there is something about illusionists that meets our desire to believe in preternaturally insightful people. I suppose Welsh’s novel is a lot grittier and the magician involved makes no claim to insight at all – on the contrary.
But the illusionistic aspects of this novel fit perfectly with the overall themes of dislocation, uncertainty and the varieties of human love.
A beautifully crafted novel, with enjoyment to be had at different levels. I loved it.