The Illusionist by Jennifer Johnston

When Stella meets a mysterious young man on a train, she immediately falls for him. She is won over by Martyn’s charm and his fascinating illusions. Although they don’t really know each other, they decide to get married. But soon after their marriage, Stella realizes that she doesn’t know anything about Martyn’s past, his family or his occupation as an illusionist. When Martin becomes more and more distant and odd things begin to happen, Stella feels uneasy and begins to have doubts. Strangers visit their house and Martyn is spending most of his time in a locked room, pretending to work on his illusions. As Stella wants to find out more about her husband, Martyn becomes angry and doesn’t want to tell her anything. After the birth of their daughter Robin, Martyn seems to ignore his wife completely and as Robin grows older, the two seem to share a strong bond. Robin adores her father and wants to spend most of her time with him. They seem to have their own secrets now and Stella feels left out. Robin tries to blame her mother for Martyn’s odd moods and she always finds excuses for his unacceptable behaviour. As she feels neglected by her husband and her daughter, Stella escapes into her own world and begins to write. But Martyn doesn’t seem to like that and becomes angrier, more distant and secretive with every passing day. When Stella’s situation becomes unbearable and when Martyn’s lies begin to crumble, Stella is ready to leave him. What secrets did Martyn have and why does he die so suddenly? Also, will Robin ever understand who her father really was and will she stop hating Stella? There are many questions to be answered, both for Stella and for the reader. Some of these questions will be answered, but some of them will remain unanswered. 

I really wanted to like this book, but I was disappointed by it. When I first discovered it, its beautiful cover intrigued me and I also liked the synopsis of the book. Unfortunately, The Illusionist wasn’t what I expected. I suppose I expected too much, and I thought that this book would be magnificent. Well, it wasn’t; it was rather dull and it lacked suspense. I think that the author just tried too hard to make this book captivating and fascinating by using an internal narrator who tells the story retrospectively. The narrator shares her life story with us and she only gives us a glimpse into the events, waiting until the end of the book to reveal the whole tale. With every page, the reader is eager to find out the truth about everything and waits for an extraordinary and surprising ending, but the author disappoints. I normally like this “teasing” technique, but only when the author delivers a shocking and thrilling ending. I expected a rousing ending, full of surprises and explanations, but there was no such thing. Instead, the ending was predictable and boring; there were no major surprises and I already knew how it would end. Also, the author left me in the dark about Martyn’s death and about his secrets concerning his birds and the locked room. Maybe it was Jennifer Johnston’s purpose, but I would have liked to know more about it. Overall, I really disliked this book, the story and its characters. I really didn’t like Martyn and Robin, but I suppose it was the author’s purpose to make these characters unlikable, so that we could have more compassion for Stella. Maybe it was just me; maybe I had too many expectations and perhaps someone else will like this book. Maybe it was my fault to think that this book would have more to offer; I thought that this novel would focus more on Martyn’s secrets and his locked room and that his secrets concerning his occupation would eventually be revealed to us. I expected some gothic elements, but there weren’t such things in this story. Instead, this was a dramatic tale of a failed marriage and of a man who led a shady double life!



8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nymeth
    Mar 07, 2010 @ 18:13:38

    I enjoyed this a lot – sorry to hear you didn’t!


    • Andreea
      Mar 08, 2010 @ 10:07:06

      Well, as I said in my post, I don’t think it’s the book – it’s just me. I thought this book would be different and my expectations were too high. I’m glad you enjoyed it though!


  2. Melody
    Mar 08, 2010 @ 01:57:22

    I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this book. I’ve this book in my pile but not sure when I’d read it though… yeah, me and my reading mood. 😛


    • Andreea
      Mar 08, 2010 @ 10:08:45

      Yes, I know how that is. I have a lot of books waiting to be read and I can never decide which one to read next:)


  3. farmlanebooks
    Mar 08, 2010 @ 09:19:18

    Sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy this one. I have been thinking about reading one of her books for a while. I think I still will and hope I enjoy it more than you did.


    • Andreea
      Mar 08, 2010 @ 10:10:04

      Yes, do that. Don’t let my review keep you from reading novels by this author! I hope you’ll pick up a book that you will enjoy very much!


  4. vivienne
    Mar 08, 2010 @ 20:12:27

    Sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy it. The cover is beautiful and I can see why you were attracted to it.


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