The film's story is based on the novel of the same name, written by Brian Moore.
Emmeline is the young, lovely wife of Henri Lambert, a world-famous magician. But her secluded, bourgeois existence ends when she and her husband are sent to North Africa on a mission for Napoleon III. Through his flawless illusionist's art, Lambert is to perform a near miracle: to show the rebellious Bedouins that Imperial France's power is absolute. But the desert tribesmen are in thrall to another 'Holy God', an aging marabout they look upon as a living saint - and their savior. It is up to Lambert to be hailed as the greater magician. Yet it is Emmeline - strangely liberated by Arab custom, shedding inhibitions along with provincial ideas of patriotism and propriety - who threatens the mission's outcome in a dangerous act of courage and betrayal that will have unforeseen consequences and leave her profoundly changed.
Inspired by a true story, 'The Magician's Wife' is a tantalizing novel of spiritual transformation and enthralling human drama, as seen through the eyes of an unforgettable protagonist and told by a most astute observer. [From the novel's back cover]
Reviews of the novel include these comments:
"A masterly portrait of a woman in uncertainty. Emmeline's doubts, her moments of euphoria, her tortured meditations, her shrewd assessments of personality, her restrained anger and her more frequent resignation are all as convincing as any of the book's historical details." -- Commonweal
"An exotic tale of a woman's journey to enlightenment and self-discovery. A wonderfully entertaining novel." -- Cincinnati Enquirer
"A rich, absorbing, and thoughtful meditation of the use of 'magic' and power, and the ways, sometimes with surprising effectiveness, individual human conscience can respond to such uses." -- Joyce Carol Oates, Times Literary Supplement
"An intelligent and sensitive woman, married to a controlled and remote, but fascinating man, Emmeline is bored, self-indulgent, contemplative, and aware of all of these. Thrust into an episode in high society, she is seduced by its glitter and facade of importance, and repelled by its cruelty and pettiness. Her husband is recruited by the Emperor himself to use his magician's illusions to overawe the superstitious and religious people of Algiers. Reluctantly impressed with the beauty and simplicity of the Algerians way of life, and humbled by their religious sincerity, Emmeline finds her already strained loyalty to her husband tested further by her sympathies for the people he intends to dupe.
Moore does a wonderful job of carrying us along in Emmeline's inner struggles with her best and worst selves. She faces her own petty fascinations with social foolery and meaningless connections, and struggles to act on her inner sense of rightness. At the same time, she does not spare herself the knowledge of her own weaknesses."
Main Characters (from the novel):
Emmeline Lambert - 27-year-old wife of Henri Lambert; a doctor's daughter; half educated in a convent in Rouen; provincial; terrified at the idea of mixing with 'society'; feels her residence is more of a theatrical museum than a home; has been with Henri for five years; two miscarriages have affected their intimacy; becomes enchanted by Arab custom - and by Colonel Deniau.
Henri Lambert - a gentleman and famous magician, now middle-aged, has retired to work on inventions; loves and desires Emmeline, but fears more miscarriages; is being brought out of retirement by the Emperor of France to perform the greatest magic tricks ever attempted in order to discredit the 'miracles' of an Algerian holy man.
Colonel Deniau - a handsome army colonel with a scarred face, military mustache, and sun-darkened skin; escorts the Lamberts to Algiers; adopts Arab customs while in North Africa; flirts with Emmeline.
Bou-Aziz - a charismatic marabout [a dervish of Muslim Africa believed to have supernatural power] who has the native population of Algeria enthralled; is thought to hold the fate of Algeria in his hands as he can call for a holy war against France.
Coming soon: synopses of the novel's chapters
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