Friday, December 9, 2016

Book Review: The Man Who Was Magic

Title: The Man Who Was Magic

Author: Paul Gallico

Author's (memorial) web page:

Date: 1966

Publisher: Doubleday

ISBN: none

Length: 203 pages

Quote: “Welcome to Mageia. Are you sure you’re a magician? You see, only professional and bona fide ones are allowed in here.”

In this “fable of innocence,” Paul Gallico postulates a whole city where all the male residents are professional stage magicians and all the females are “assistants.” Naturally one little girl, Jane, wants to be a magician and bickers with her older brother about whether this can be allowed. Meanwhile, a would-be magician whose stage name is Adam the Simple comes to the city, with his dog Mopsy, to qualify for the magicians’ guild. Adam is required to let Jane be his official assistant during the trials, but Adam and Mopsy, as a team, really have Magical Powers. When they do tricks that are more than sleight of hand they could teach the other magicians, they are accused of witchcraft.

In order not to spoil the ending, all I’ll say here is that it’s happy, and includes some warbles about the “magic” and mystery of everyday real life.

Who should read this book? Well…I’d have to say…people who like Gallico. He wrote The Snow Goose and Thomasina and the book on which Lili was based, and many other works of fiction. Personally I find his fiction sentimental yet uncharming, but it sold well in its day; it's still supporting a commercial web site, forty years after the author's time. Some people who enjoy gentle fiction may still find any of Gallico’s novels, including this one, as delightful as mid-twentieth-century audiences did.

For what age group? That was one of the things about Paul Gallico. Even when his stories were about grown-ups, they were generally “suitable” for sharing with children, if the children showed any interest. The Man Who Was Magic calls Adam a man, but a very young one; Jane isn’t even ten years old yet, and the case may be made that the real hero of the story is the talking dog. It’s long enough to pass as an adult book, and it was originally addressed to adults, but it’s open to children as old as seven or eight if they’re willing to read 203 pages of normal-sized type.

This book is a collector's item. To buy it here, send $15 per copy + $5 per package + $1 per online payment to either address at the bottom of the screen.