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The Magician (Penguin Classics) Paperback – February 27, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0143104896 ISBN-10: 0143104896

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (February 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143104896
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143104896
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Maugham tells his tale of the weird and the horrible with simple sincerity and a constant matching of the unhallowed practices with the clean, sweet things of common life that make its effect uncommonly impressive. (The New York Times)

About the Author

W. Somerset Maugham was born in 1874 and lived in Paris until he was ten. He was educated at King's School, Canterbury, and at Heidelberg University. He afterwards walked the wards of St. Thomas's Hospital with a view to practice in medicine, but the success of his first novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897), won him over to letters. Something of his hospital experience is reflected, however, in the first of his masterpieces, Of Human Bondage (1915), and with The Moon and Sixpence (1919) his reputation as a novelist was assured.

His position as one of the most successful playwrights on the London stage was being consolidated simultaneously. His first play, A Man of Honour (1903), was followed by a procession of successes just before and after the First World War. (At one point only Bernard Shaw had more plays running at the same time in London.) His theatre career ended with Sheppey (1933).

His fame as a short-story writer began with The Trembling of a Leaf, sub-titled Little Stories of the South Sea Islands, in 1921, after which he published more than ten collections.

W. Somerset Maugham's general books are fewer in number. They include travel books, such as On a Chinese Screen (1922) and Don Fernando (1935), essays, criticism, and the self-revealing The Summing Up (1938) and A Writer's Notebook (1949).

W. Somerset Maugham became a Companion of Honour in 1954. He died in 1965.

Robert Calder is professor of English at the University of Saskatchewan.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By reader 451 on December 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
The Magician is an early work of the still young(ish) Maugham. A compulsive attraction for a person unworthy of it stands between its protagonist and happiness: it shares a similar subject with works such as The Painted Veil, Theatre, and of course Of Human Bondage. But Maugham seems to have been still grappling with the implications of this interesting premise, and while in later works its development is psychological, here the attraction is excused as hypnotic. This makes for less analysis, but a faster-paced plot. Action begins in the artistic and occult demi-monde of 1900 Paris and takes the reader to a climax in the magician's lair in Yorkshire. Good is pitted straightforwardly against evil. Cliffhangers take place in suitably exotic settings. And though The Magician's storyline is mono-dimensional, Maugham weaves skilfully between the supernatural and the still explainable. Unlike other reviewers, or indeed the author himself as his introduction hints, I don't find his style has aged or that it was less effective in this earlier phase of his career.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D.S.Thurlow TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 23, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
W. Somerset Maugham's 1908 novel "The Magician" is, as Robert Calder's introductory essay frankly admits, derivative of the then-current public fascination with the occult. Maugham was between best-sellers and writing for income; the result is formulaic, but still an example of the author's ability to tell a good story.

"The Magician" concerns a handful of characters in the Paris of the 1890's. Gifted surgeon Arthur Burdon is engaged to his young and beautiful ward Margaret, who lives in Paris with her friend and former teacher, the plain but sensible Susie Boyd. Arthur's old friend and mentor Doctor Porhoet, a researcher into the mysterious ways of the East, introduces everyone to the ostentatious Oliver Haddo, a man who both charms and repulses, and who claims great abilities beyond the pale of accepted science. When Haddo provokes a dispute with Arthur and is thrashed for his bad manners, he vows a terriable vengeance. The instrument of his revenge will be Arthur's fiance and involve events absolutely unbelievable in the cold light of day.

The story moves from Paris to London and finally to a remote country estate in the North of England, where an unsuspected horror awaits. Along the way, Arthur's eyes will be opened to a reality beyond his medical training, Margaret's friend Susie will find herself caught between her loyalty to her friend and the demands of her own heart, and Dr. Porhoet will come face to face with the end point of his researches. If not Maugham's best work, it is still a fun read which captures his gift for places and people; the plot would make a great horror film script. "The Magician" is recommended to his fans.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By violeta on May 6, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a big fan of Somerset Maugham and this book is an eye opener. I warmly recommend it. It will make you think and reconsider your believes.
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