May Goodreads Challenge – The Magus

For May I chose The Magus to read from my remaining books. I’ve read John Fowles before – The French Lieutenant’s Woman is one of my favourite books so I had high hopes about The Magus.

It is a big book – not just in length but in content. The blurb talks about our protagonist, Nicholas Urfe, being held by a master trickster – but make no mistake, the master trickster in residence here is Fowles himself.

It took me a long time to read it – not because it was uninteresting or particularly hard, but because it just is a very big book. That being said, the last 200 pages roared by as the plot kicked it up about four gears.

Nicholas Urfe, as a typical rudderless middle-class graduate of the post-war era, finds himself teaching English in a Greek school for boys on a remote, isolated island. It follows nicely from Romance of the Forest with a travel literature edge. Fowles captures Greece wonderfully – his prose reminded me of holidays to Crete and Lesvos and brought back lovely memories. I also liked the TEFL aspect, especially so as Nicholas had similar feelings of unfulfilment regarding teaching that I had experienced in my short tenure.

The book is best thought of as London and England bracketing either side of the fat Grecian middle section. Nicholas flees a girlfriend, disappointment in his own failings and general disillusionment to an island that then reflects these three things again back at him. The master trickster he meets is a strange patriarch, Conchis, who Fowles paints expertly as a man who shifts in all but shape. There are powerful moments detailing Conchis’s life, in particular the recollection of his days serving on the front in WWI, but in typical Fowles style (a la French Lieutenant’s Woman) the rug is pulled out from under the reader’s feet. As a result, the story is lush, deceptive, and twists and turns at every page.

I enjoyed it, though it was strange, and at times felt a little laboured. (I am in the middle of my own editing so I’m seeing everything bloated and over-egged so I might just be projecting outwards.) As a mystery it was good to figure bits out, though sometimes the cycles of mystery were so dense it was hard to decide what the actual point of it all was. It felt a little too high-brow for me at times: a lot about psychology and psychiatry, which went over my head, and sometimes it was hard to keep track of what was real and what wasn’t (though I guess that was purposeful). Nicholas, our narrator, also did my head in from time to time. He was full of his own self-importance, but then again, all his flaws got called out on. This is a story about how our own selfishness and egocentric behaviour can drastically affect those around us – and Nicholas is forced to confront his own shortcomings. I’m not sure if he will really learn from his mistakes, but over the course of the novel he comes a step closer to comprehending that he is not the only player on the stage.

The ending was wholly ambiguous and I made my own conclusion, based on a Disney-fuelled happily ever after.

It is very much a sort of book that will haunt you, and it also makes you not trust anybody or anything they ever say, which is very helpful in everyday life.

My next book is The Meaning of Night, a contemporary Victorian crime thriller, which Maura is cuddling up to below.

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MFB

You might have seen “MFB” dotted around my posts, elusively made reference to and never explained.

My first book!

This is something I’ve been writing since I was 18, and is by no means the first book I started. I have another novel in my head that I started dreaming of when I was 13/14, and another when I was about 15. Those are in great states of infancy, but MFB is in a much better position for possible publication. Screamy face. Some elements have been borrowed or adapted from another little short story I started when I was 12 – nothing is ever thrown away, it is merely repossessed!

I’ve been writing MFB on and off since I was 18; it was massively influenced by my time at the University of York. Consequently after graduation it fell to the wayside as I was focusing on work and sorting out a life that’s never really got all that much more sorted. I picked it up, playing with it a little more, and put it down again. Other parts expanded, were added, were moved around, and it got to the point where it was a big ole mess and there was no rhyme nor reason, but I knew there was a beating heart in there somewhere. So in September 2015 I decided to sort myself out and go for it. Other things had got in the way: jobs, boyfriends, Masters, PGCEs, summer schools. Not any longer! I was determined, and so determination became. I got a new house, a new job, and a new sense of vitality. Continue reading “MFB”