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The Confabulistby Steven Galloway
Synopses & Reviews
From the author of The Cellist of Sarajevo, an exciting new novel that uses the life and sudden death of Harry Houdini to weave a tale of magic, intrigue, and illusion.
What is real and what is an illusion? Can you trust your memory to provide an accurate record of what has happened in your life?
The Confabulist is a clever, entertaining, and suspenseful narrative that weaves together the rise and fall of world-famous Harry Houdini with the surprising story of Martin Strauss, an unknown man whose fate seems forever tied to the magicians in a way that will ultimately startle and amaze. It is at once a vivid portrait of an alluring, late-nineteenth/early-twentieth-century world; a front-row seat to a world-class magic show; and an unexpected love story. In the end, the book is a kind of magic trick in itself: there is much more to Martin than meets the eye.
Historically rich and ingeniously told, this is a novel about magic and memory, truth and illusion, and the ways that love, hope, grief, and imagination can — for better or for worse — alter what we perceive and believe.
"From the author of The Cellist of Sarajevo comes this colorful but hard-to-swallow reimagining of Harry Houdini's life and death. The book opens with narrator Martin Strauss asserting, 'I didn't just kill Harry Houdini. I killed him twice.' Strauss is Galloway's fictionalized version of the young man who famously punched the famed illusionist in the stomach at a theater in Montreal in 1926, rupturing Houdini's appendix, which caused his death two days later. Or did it? The hypothesis that Houdini may have survived is the book's biggest (and most outrageous) conceit — one that may test readers' patience and credulity. As Martin pursues the 'dead' Houdini while trying to evade conspirators who want him silenced, evocative flashbacks limn Houdini's rise to stardom, his great illusions, and his crusade to expose mediums and other charlatans. All this is well-trod ground, but what is different is the use Galloway makes of a recent idea in Houdini lore: that he worked for U.S. and British intelligence — 'the skills of a magician and the skills of a spy were nearly identical.' Galloway makes this notion somewhat believable, but the basic premise of this stylish but convoluted novel — Houdini's survival — remains difficult to accept. Agent: Henry Dunow, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. (May) " Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"In this darkly fanciful take on the Houdini legend...the magician's life is recounted through the damaged memory of the fan who killed him with a punch to the stomach in 1926....[Galloway's] his explorations of the relationships between truth and illusion, fiction and reality, need and conscience are stimulating and affecting....An entertaining fictional reflection on the 20th century's most famous magician." Kirkus
"A brilliant novel, and one that virtually demands multiple readings to pick up all the subtleties (especially concerning the end of the book, and enough said about that)." Booklist (starred)
“The Confabulist is a historical novel that is more relevant than ever today. What begins as a playful, mind-teasing mystery about Harry Houdini, the greatest magician who ever lived, turns subtly, brilliantly into a beautiful elegy on love and loss, identity and self-deception. Galloway, who is fast emerging as one of our finest young writers, has produced another novel to linger over, read and re-read, in order to glean all that it has to offer.” Kevin Baker, author of The Big Crowd
About the Author
Steven Galloway lives in British Columbia and teaches creative writing at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of The Cellist of Sarajevo, which was an IndieBound and a Barnes and Noble Discover selection and has been chosen for community reads across the country.
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