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The Magician's Wife

Dover has put The Magician’s Wife back into print in the U.S. I still have my old Catalan Communications edition and thought I’d compare the two.

The most obvious difference is that they have different covers. I assume Boucq redrew his original cover. The Dover edition also lacks the end flaps of the Catalan edition. It is also slightly smaller. I actually prefer this, though it does make the images smaller. The color in it has more depth than the Catalan edition. In the Catalan edition, the colors are a bit washed out. The blacks in the Dover edition seem a tad grayer, but it’s not a big deal. Also, Dover relettered the book. The new lettering is a bit easier to read than in the Catalan edition.

Overall, this is a nice printing of the book and this new edition makes me appreciate Boucq’s color work more.

I still like the book after all these years. Not all the books that influenced me when I was younger have held up. The Magician’s Wife is a strange and captivating story. Yet at times the characters display contradictory emotions. This is very human, but we don’t always know the characters enough to understand these contradictions. For instance, the magician’s wife, Rita, fluctuates between loving her husband, Edmund, and hating him. It isn’t clear why such drastic changes in her affections occur. Yes, Rita is haunted by her decision to abandon her past, and Edmund represents that past, but we don’t see her conflict. Either she loathes him of she longs for him. We don’t see her loathe herself for longing for him. So it’s like she’s two different people rather than one person having conflicting emotions.

Still, this is a beautiful book. Boucq’s art is wonderful and every character is delightfully rendered. And while the ending gives Rita a happy reunion with Edmund, it comes across more as a happy reunion with her past and a rewriting of it in order to come to terms with it. Yet it remains ambiguous. What we understand is that this waitress in a New York café is something more than the casual observer would see. In fact, she has an entire magical universe within her. And so this is a book that makes you look at the people you see on the street in a different way. What stories are inside of them? Is one a former performer who was once the hit of Europe but now just the woman serving you coffee?

 

(written June 16, 2016)