Colm Toibin’s The Magician is a deeply European novel, even when part of the action takes place in America. An impersonation of the life of the writer Thomas Mann, its range and compass are extraordinary. Moving from late-nineteenth-century Germany which formed and inspired Mann, to the advent of the Nazi regime which he publicly opposed and sought refuge from in the US, it is a considerable achievement to have fictionalised this shadowy figure in all his personal and political complexity. The Magician is a rich and beautifully crafted story.
Holbein’s tiny portrait projects us into a private moment in the life of an ordinary middle-class woman living in the reign of Henry VIII.