Review: The Trick

The Trick: A Novel by Emanuel Bergmann

Atria, 2017.  Hardcover, 384 pages.Cover: The Trick

Like with last year’s The German Girl, The Trick is a dual timeline novel with the historic timeline set amidst the rise of the Nazi’s and World War II.  Moshe Goldenhirsch is a young man living in Prague in the 1930s.  Tired of his oft-drunk father and being forced to study Jewish traditions, Moshe rebels by joining the circus. That is where he reinvents himself as the Great Zabbatini, a magician/mentalist who would later go on to wow crowds and offer his services in wartime Berlin.  Moshe also falls in love with Julia Klein, his partner in his magical endeavors.  However all good things must eventually come to an end, but how will that happen?

In the modern era storyline, Max Cohn’s parents are getting divorced and he does not want that to happen.  As his father leaves, an old record falls out.  This record was one of spells recorded by Zabbatini and the last was a “spell of love” which the record skipped over.  Max sets out to try to find Zabbatini in order to learn the spell.  Max’s quest does not fully go as planned, but there are unexpected consequences and surprises along the way.

Overall, I think that the novel drove several points home.  One was that no matter what, your past shapes your future (All the Light We Cannot See also drives this point home).  Another was that there is always hope no matter how bleak things seem.  A third is that simple acts of kindness can have unexpected results.  All three are seen in both timelines.  Historically speaking, I do think that Bergman accurately represented the desire for occult topics in Nazi Germany and how hard it was for a Jew to openly hide.  However, I did not care for the older Moshe in the modern timeline as he was a lusty old geezer and his actions and language sometimes reflected that.  As for Max,  he epitomizes the hope young children have that anything can be fixed and without that the story would have lost its drive.

Do you think you will read this novel?  Have you read anything similar in the past?

This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

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