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Reviews: The Last Magician


Listed in New York Times Book Review’s “Most Notable Books of l992”
and in Publishers Weekly’s Best 16 Novels of l992.

Featured New Voice Selection

— Quality Paperback Book Club


United Kingdom

The Last Magician is unashamedly dense with ideas... It is her finest novel to date, surpassing even the excellent Borderline, and should establish her as one of the most powerful and innovative writers in English today.

Times Literary Supplement


A novel of considerable intellectual and emotional vigour

Sunday Times


The Last Magician distinguishes itself by encasing an intriguing plot in luminous crackles of language and perception.... As with the other finest Australian writers, there’s a sense of different energies, an escaping of tired formats.... Widely tipped for the Booker Prize.

The Scotsman

A dose of serious magic... a beautifully written and intelligent novel

Sunday Telegraph


A smouldering disquisition on social inertia



Dazzling and elliptical



Few novelists have written with such authority about childhood passions and the influence they carry over into what passes for adulthood

London Review of Books


With refreshing disregard for literary decorum, Janette Turner Hospital grasps Dante’s central image of the Inferno and makes it her own... a [vision] wide enough to tackle themes that range from the intimate to the universal.

Literary Review


Heady, engrossing and rather wonderful... High-voltage prose.... The real magician of course is the author.




United States

Janette Turner Hospital connects the matter-of-fact everyday world with the realm of the mythic. It is as if The Divine Comedy started by listing the bus transfers Dante had to make to reach the middle of his life's road and the dark wood where he begins his visit to Hell....
The author writes with powerful beauty.... A story of high tension and terrifying allure... Her writing has perfect pitch.

Los Angeles Times (lead fiction review by Richer Eder, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic)


Soon, very soon, readers of first-rate fiction will be embarrassed not to know the name of Janette Turner Hospital...

We marvel at how Hospital makes her novel work on so many different levels – as psychological thriller and detective story, as sociopolitical commentary, as both a jaggedly postmodern novel and a compulsively readable one... Hospital’s prose showers over us like a torrent, leaving us amazed, breathless, and perhaps a bit terrified.

— Dan Cryer, New York Newsday


A highwire act... [that holds] us with attention riveted, breath held.

Washington Post Book World


She fills her novel with evocative settings, characters we care deeply about, and language that is entrancingly lyrical... An ambitious, intense and satisfying book.

New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice


Insightful and original, The Last Magician poses the burning questions – about sexuality and repression, about 'innocence' and its relation to violence, about the masks power wears when it demonizes the Other – on a wide, richly textured screen.

Boston Globe


The most sensuous artistic novel of the year

New England Review of Books


From tantalizing start to dizzying conclusion, the novel’s pleasures – like its metaphors – operate on a grand scale.

Chicago Tribune


In this mesmerizing study of the effects of a dark secret on the people who must live with it, the author of Charades proves herself a magician with words and narrative structure. Moreover, she seems to have an artificer’s skill for re-creating her fictional approach each time out: each of her novels is different from the others in theme, tone, and method. The constants are her impeccable, sensuous prose and her fiercely intelligent imagination.

Publishers Weekly, lead featured review

Combining elements of a suspense thriller with many of the techniques of experimental fiction, Hospital takes us on a disorienting trip...
Throughout this hypnotic magic show of a novel, Hospital plays with her readers unmercifully; she gives us what we traditionally crave--characters to love and a story to follow--but then she withholds the tonic chord.... And yet, in one final turn of the magic lantern, we realize that by denying us meaning, by failing to find the pattern, Hospital has taught us more about where life and literature come together and break apart than we’ve managed to learn from even the most meaningful of books.

— Booklist, lead review, by Bill Ott


Similar to, but more focused than the mythopoetic sagas of Thomas Pynchon, The Last Magician is a tour de force that finally rewards the reader's persistence with extraordinary insight and vision.

Philadelphia Inquirer

With her highly charged imagination and an impatience with pretense, Hospital probes the duplicity of memory in much the same way as Charlie’s enigmatic photographs: by blurring the boundary between past and present, mixing documentation with deception and desire..... This is a fierce and brilliantly constructed tale, and the telling is magic.

Boston Review

A powerful intellect at work... an end-of-the-millenium rewrite of Dante’s Inferno... an inquiry into the power of memory and the modern idea of the infernal, pursued in a tone of violent lyricism

Women's Review of Books


Hospital is a modern magician with a very sure hand

San Francisco Chronicle


Shortlisted for the Miles Franklin , Australia’s main literary award.

The Australian:
Janette Turner Hospital is the magician here, conjuring up Brisbane in the last year of the trams and Sydney’s more recent past in scenes that puzzle, horrify and finally illuminate. A knockout.

Melbourne Times:
The passion which informs Hospital’s writing is political in the best sense, defying labels or categorisation, but constantly in search of the authentic in a world of moral ugliness.... When combined with her dazzling writing skills, her intricate plotting, her evocation of the very taste and smell of Australian experience, as it is in The Last Magician, the result is a book hard to put down which teases and lingers in the mind long after it has been closed.

Melbourne Report:
The most exciting Australian novel in over a decade

Fiona Capp in the Sydney Morning Herald:
In The Last Magician... arrival at a destination or solution is not the point. It’s the marvellous and disturbing journey that counts.

Sunday Age:
Janette Turner Hospital has a rare sense of her own work, pacing herself so every achievement is full, mature, and glowing. She is as magical with her words as the knowing magician of her title. Applaud the conjurer.

Katherine England in the Adelaide Advertiser:
Like most of Hospital’s work, The Last Magician repays rereading: structure imitates substance here.... A second reading picks up resonances with a wealth of literature....
Few Australian writers throw out such a challenge as Janette Turner Hospital; few repay acceptance of the challenge with such tangible and topical rewards.

Language is Turner Hospital’s greatest strength... her prose shimmers, and her delight in word play is infectious.... An engrossing and powerful novel.

Number #1 on the Toronto Star Bestseller list.
Shortlisted for the Trillium Award
Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize

Carol Corbeil in the lead review in Toronto Globe & Mail:
A brilliantly layered, complex and profound work... an allegory of the soul’s journey toward light

Toronto Star:
Wonderful, compelling writing

Books in Canada:
The Last Magician is a moving tale that resonates with insight and larger purpose.... Postmodern it is, and richly philosophical; a deeply felt work in which the characters unearth for us the only truths that count.

George Woodcock, Canada’s most distinguished literary critic, writes in
Quill & Quire:
My criteria of maturity are three: when the literature develops a strong line of critical practice interweaving with the creative functions; when it ceases to be obsessed with the new nationalism and abandons the obsession with theme...; and finally, when it cuts away from national self-consciousness and begins to look outside once again for forms and inspirations in time and space... as do both Janette Turner Hospital (in The Last Magician) and Michael Ondaatje (in The English Patient).

Maclean’s Magazine:
Its essence is an emotionally charged meditation on loss and absence, on time and memory, on the head’s ability to deny what the heart knows.
In the sensuousness of the prose--and the unforgettable image of the quarry-- Hospital’s new book provides ample evidence that she has some impressive tricks up her sleeve.

Calgary Herald:
The Last Magician is brilliant: a postmodern tour-de-force