The Human Experiment

John Fowles - The Magus


I have had this book on the shelf for a while and I am being honest I was not really aware of what I was about to read.

From the opening pages I was brought into Nicholas Urfe's world and came to appreciate his negative and positive traits. He is not overly likable, is judgmental and in his own words a cad. He takes a teaching position on a Greek Island, breaks the heart of Alison and meets Mr Conchis. It is this meeting that sparks the heart of the novel. From here on in you do not know what is a lie and what is truth. Like Nicholas you have to navigate your way through all the twists and turns to figure out what this is all about.

The genius in this book is that as a reader it really is your decision as to what make of the story laid out in front of you.

The other thing that really struck me about this novel was the detail of the world created and the characters who were ever so real. Not one character, even the minor players was wonderfully realised.

So what is the book about? For me,  Nicholas Urfe had been cast in the lead role in an improvised play, where the Director, Playwright and the other actors colluded to pull him in a hundred different directions while he tries to stay true to what he believes is himself.  Every time he thinks he knows the plot another twist is thrown into the mix. Towards the end you I had some sympathy for Urfe as I began to wonder what awful thing did he do to be so utterly humiliated. For Conchis and his cohort see it as an experiment whereas for Urfe he has to find a reality through the deceit they have created.

There is nothing simple about this novel, it is impressive in the depth of everything that has been created. The key is how Fowles has made it accessible to the reader.

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