For me, NetGalley is the gift that keeps on giving. I’ve requested some brilliant books in the past and none have let me down.
I was looking for something meaty to get my teeth into over the winter months and when I saw Colm Toibin’s latest novel pop up, I requested a copy straight away.
A couple of days later, I had The Magician downloaded on to my Kindle and was hungrily following Thomas Mann’s life during my commute to work.
This is truly a treat of a book.
Who wrote it?
The wonderful Colm Toibin.
How long is it?
A hefty 504 pages in my Kindle edition.
So, what happens?
The book opens in the German town of Lubeck where we’re introduced to Thomas Mann for the first time.
Throughout the book, Toibin manages to capture his entire life, moving from childhood to Mann in old age.
Along the way, we see Mann and his family go through many joyful and extremely painful moments – a whole life condensed into a few hundred pages.
What are my thoughts?
This book had me hooked and afraid, all at the same time. Some days, I would be hungry to read more. Others, I would be afraid to turn the page as I feared for Mann and his family.
The Magician covers many strands of Thomas Mann’s life, including his sexuality, his politics and his career as a writer.
But this is all threatened by the Nazis coming into power and pursuing the Mann family. These sections of the book were so tense that I was afraid to read on, as I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. It was a gripping read.
Although I felt as though I was observing the Manns from a distance rather than relating to them as I have with other characters, I did feel the honesty of the prose couldn’t be underestimated. Toibin has given us an insight into Mann’s mind which reaches far beyond superficial thoughts and feelings, and brings the whole spectrum of human emotion into view.
I particularly enjoyed the references to other historical figures in this book, such as Albert Einstein and W H Auden, who was married to Mann’s daughter Erika (although the marriage was based on convenience rather than love).
It was interesting to see which roads each of Mann’s six children went down and I was constantly Googling throughout, to find images of them that Toibin had mentioned.
I didn’t, however, google Thomas Mann until I finished the book and was stunned to see the man whose life had been reading so much about. After all, he was only human.
I’m very interested in reading some of Mann’s work, after reading this treasure.
4/5 – A book that carries a lot of tragedy with moments of lightness, and an interesting picture of a complicated man.