Wednesday, May 5, 2010

18. The Prestige

Plot Summary
Andrew Westley is a reporter for the Chronicle that reports on odd stories about UFO's and religious cults. On his way to cover a story about a bi-locating leader of a religous sect known as the Rapturous Church of Christ Jesus, he is given a copy of a book titled Secret Methods of Magic , written by Alfred Borden. The name stands out to Mr. Westley, because Borden was the surname he was born with before he was adopted. Westley feels no urge to seek out the parents who abandoned him, but there is one thing about his past that has haunted him for his entire existence, and that is the belief that he has a twin brother. While visiting the Rapturous Church of Christ Jesus, Westley meets Kate Angier, and discovers that their meeting is not at all coincidental. Kate is the great-granddaughter of magician Rupert Angier, and from the time she was a small girl she has lived with a terrible secret. Kate is convinced that as a girl she witnessed a murder; the murder of a young boy who is now the man Andrew Westley. Together through Westley's book about Borden, and Kate's dairy of her great-grandfather Rupert Angier, they must try to piece together their family histories in order to understand the events that have haunted them since childhood.

Critical Evaluation
The Prestige is a novel that explores the rivalry between accomplished stage magicians Rupert Angier and Alfred Borden. Author Christopher Priest tip toes the line between fantasy and science fiction in this tale of secrets, deception, and sabotage. The Great Magicians never reveal their secrets in life, and like a great magician, Christopher Priest leaves it up to readers to determine if what they are reading is in fact actual magic and fantasy, a scientific feat, or just another clever trick. Priest explores the lives of the novel's famed magicians through a published book given to Alfred Borden's great-grandson Andrew Westley, and through Rupert Angier's diary, that is now in the possession of his great-granddaughter Kate Angier. Together Kate Angier and Andrew Westley explore the literature of their family histories in order to understand events from their childhood that have been shrouded in mystery. Readers learn about the Angier and Borden family histories as Andrew and Kate discover the men who shaped their lives more than 100 years ago.

Priest divides his novel into five different sections that alternate between the current story involving Kate and Andrew, and the diary entries detailing Borden and Angier's past. Mixing diary entries with the current action of the story's plot creates an interesting pace. Reader's plunge into the lives of Borden and Angier, and just when secrets begin to be revealed, readers are forced to come up for air. The dairy element of the story also raises questions about the reliability of the narrators. The last thing a magician wants is for the world to know about his secrets and his life. Priest doesn't provide any easy answers for his readers, and in doing so, forces them to put together the pieces to the puzzle just as Andrew Westley and Kate Angier struggle to. Priest explores themes of deceit and deception with subtle ease in his web of mysterious pasts. The lives of his interesting characters are the strongest part of this fantastic tale, and readers will delight in learning how the lives of these feuding and intriguing men, can hauntingly effect the lives of their descendants.

Reader's Annotation
Rivalry can be an unexpected and deadly matter. For magicians Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier, rivalry is everything, and protecting secrets isn't a way of life, it's a way to make a living.

Author Information
Christopher Priest is an award winning English author that works predominantly in the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. His novels and short stories have been honored with several Hugo nominations, and his novel The Prestige, received a World Fantasy Award in 1996. The Prestige was also adapted into a film in 2006 by director Christopher Nolan. The film version of The Prestige was nominated for two Academy awards in the categories of Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography.

fantasy, urban fantasy

Curriculum Ties
Victorian life, Tesla

Book Talking Ideas
How are magic and science different, and how are they similar?
Secrets and how secrets can tear lives apart.

Reading Level

Grades 9+

Challenge Issues


Challenge defense ideas:
1. Make sure you are familiar with your library collection and the book in question.
2. Be familiar with your library collection policy.
3. If possible, speak with the person challenging the material and make sure they feel comfortable. Ask the customer what they disliked or disapproved of in the resource. If they still insist on challenging the material give them instructions on how to file a formal complaint.
4. Research professional reviews that speak to the material's merit, and get input from teen readers on why they found the book important.

Reason For Selection
I really enjoyed the film adaptation of this novel, and because of the popularity of the film, I felt that the book would appeal to teenage readers. I'm glad that I read the novel, and I enjoyed the differences in the novel's structure compared to the film. The book focuses on diary entries from the magicians Borden and Angier, and also details a modern story involving their great-grandchildren. The great-grandchildren story arc was axed in the film, and this is something that works really well in the novel. This novel will be popular for teens interested in urban fantasy, the cinema, and magic.

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