Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
The Confabulist: A Novel Hardcover – May 1, 2014
|New from||Used from|
Top 20 lists in Books
View the top 20 best sellers of all time, the most reviewed books of all time and some of our editors' favorite picks. Learn more
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
"Memory is a cagey friend: What we see is subjective, colored by what we want to believe. Such tension between wish and reality is employed to stunning effect in Steven Galloway’s new novel, The Confabulist. Intertwining the lives of the famous Houdini and a misfit named Martin Strauss, Galloway’s story has a big trick up its sleeve, but his talent is no illusion."—More
“As Galloway rightly notes — in beautiful passages on topics such as the meaning of love and the responsibilities of parenthood — just because something is fictional doesn't mean it isn't also real.”—Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
"Fabulous . . . A page-turner you'll want to read twice.”—Readers Digest
"If contemporary literature is anything to go by, the golden age of magic was around the beginning of the 20th century. It was the heyday of perhaps the most famous magician to have ever lived, one Mr. Harry Houdini, and it is with his story that the tale of The Confabulist begins. Martin Strauss is not a name that anyone has heard, but his story is so tightly bound with Houdini’s that it is hard to see where one ends and the other begins. It promises to mesmerize in the same way that The Night Circus did."—Book Riot
"As much as the novel is a stylish reimagining of Houdini’s biography, it is also a deep exploration of the meaning of magic. Houdini’s narrative serves as a lens through which Galloway examines our notions of truth and illusion, of reality and fiction, and our ability, or inability, to distinguish one from the other."—Bustle
"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
“Galloway has always been an uncommonly gifted storyteller, and this is very much a novel about storytelling. It’s also a haunting exploration of sorrow and identity and illusion—and a beautifully calibrated full-length magic act.”—The Vancouver Sun
“Vancouver author Steven Galloway created literary magic with The Cellist of Sarajevo. . . . Now in his new novel, The Confabulist, Galloway makes magic again, this time of the literal, stage-show variety. . . . He takes fascinating true-life aspects of Houdini, mixes them with speculation and creates a memorable though not always likeable character. . . . Galloway has created ideal conditions for the exploration of reality vs. illusion, of real vs. false memories. . . . With Galloway’s elegant sleight-of-hand, [The Confabulist] is as finely crafted as the most intricate magic trick, right to the revelatory conclusion. Whether or not it’s the ending you anticipate, you’re likely to think, after any clever illusion, ‘Amazing. How did he do that?’ ” —Toronto Star
“[Houdini is] the star of the book. . . . He is such a fascinating individual, well described in Galloway’s novel. . . . Galloway is naturally drawn to real figures or the ‘real-life moment.’ And to realize his work he did a lot of research.”—Ottawa Citizen
“Memory, which is at the heart of [Steven] Galloway’s new novel, is perhaps the most remarkable magic trick there is. . . . The Confabulist, Galloway’s eagerly anticipated fourth novel, is itself a trick, too, an impressive feat of close-up magic from one of the country’s most talented young literary conjurors. . . . It’s a delightful, delirious narrative that hinges on a kick-ass supposition . . . that, once started, is as difficult to escape from as one of the straitjackets used in [Houdini’s] death-defying stunts.”—National Post
“A fantastical new tale that interlaces history with imagination.”—The Globe and Mail
“Colourful. . . . Galloway builds intrigue by mixing the personal and the political. . . . Readers looking for the innocent pleasures of a good smoke-and-mirrors mystery will be amply rewarded.”—Quill & Quire
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Strauss, believing Houdini to be alive, hopes to unravel this mystery and find Houdini’s whereabouts as he, himself, is being pursued by a cadre of conspirators out to muzzle him. The book is wildly fascinating and filled with the back story of Harry Houdini’s rise to fame. The reader is privy to the chronicles dealing with the construction of the Great Illusions and the history of why and how he sought to expose the Mediums and Quack Pretenders that were so popular at that time early in the 20th Century.
Galloway tells a speculative tale with an alternate Houdini from the one we think we know. Was he a spy for Britain and the USA? How do Arthur Conan Doyle and the head of Scotland Yard enter into this tale? What is the connection to the House of Romanov? I don’t think I ever totally “bought in” to the conjecture fabricated by the author but I certainly enjoyed the telling. I’m going to recommend this book to my library reading group.
And thus author Steven Galloway weaves a fascinating tale about one of the country's best known men: Harry Houdini.
When Martin Strauss discovers he is losing his awareness...and mental capacity, he recalls the life of 20th Century icon Harry Houdini, perhaps once the most well-known person in world. At the turn of the century, Houdini amazed and fascinated crowds who attended his vaudeville-like shows to see him perform magic tricks and escape from the "inescapable". Strauss' connection to Houdini is that he is the young man who struck the magician after Houdini boasted of his abdominal strength. Houdini died within days from a ruptured appendix.
Suffering from years of guilt, and harboring a code Houdini skillfully placed in the young man's pocket before the fatal blow, Strauss narrates the life of Ehrich Weiss (Houdini's real name) as he moves from the small local stage to the palaces of the world. Along the way, Galloway suggests that Weiss (Houdini) supposedly was involved in espionage, and, of course, later trying to disprove those who said they communicated with the other world... a reference to the spiritual beings many in the 1920s sought. Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes and a friend of Houdini was one of those and is woven into the tale.
I found the book quite entertaining and particularly enjoyed the explanations regarding magic, his honed skills to escape from locks and locked places, and Houdini's adept usage of his personal physical prowess in his act.Read more ›
Harry Houdini, one of Galloway's two narrator/protagonists, deals with that openly: his life is about presenting illusions as spectacle, and yet debunking them as mere sleight of hand. There is no magic, he argues; there are no ghosts and those who pretend to commune with the dead are simply charlatans. Then there is Galloway's other narrator, the unknown Martin Strauss, who tells us with almost his first words that he killed Harry Houdini: twice. What could he have meant? Can we trust him? After all, he has just visited a physician who has told him that he suffers from a degenerative memory disease. What does reality and illusion mean to Martin?
Martin seems to have as clear an idea and set of memories as does Houdini, and when they intersect, real drama sparks. But it's not until the final few chapters that all becomes clear, and here -- as has been the case with a few other books I've read recently, such as Ian MacEwan's "Sweet Tooth", the author has reserved for himself some crucial piece of knowledge until those final pages without which little of what comes before makes full and complete sense. Or at least, our understanding of it all will be dramatically altered: not until that revelation will we finally understand what is reality and what has been illusion all along.
And that is a large part of the reason for my relatively low rating. Admittedly, while I love Galloway's prose, I also found the narrative slow going and not as engaging as I had hoped: a bit like watching a slow-motion tennis match between two players about whom you don't care all that much.Read more ›
Before I started, I had only a general impression of Houdini's career as a magician and escape artist, and am glad that I didn't check further until afterwards. For Galloway's account of how a Jewish immigrant named Ehrich Weisz became the great Houdini is fascinating, as are his accounts of his various tricks and growing theatrical successes in North America and Europe. He is especially good on the psychology of illusion, how making a person believe one thing is a carefully-prepared matter of suggestion and misdirection. In this version, Houdini soon finds himself working for the American Secret Service and a parallel organization in Britain; I felt slightly less comfortable when the action moves to matters of political intrigue in the Romanov court, but Galloway does a fine job of taking known facts and extrapolating between the lines.
Galloway begins his account of Houdini's career with an episode in which he tricks a grieving couple by pretending he has a message from their recently deceased child. Almost immediately, he rejects this lapse in judgment, and at the end of his career he mounts a national campaign to debunk fraudulent spiritualists.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I almost gave this book 3 stars instead of 4 ... because of its conclusion. It was a good read right up until the end. Read morePublished 3 months ago by J. Cupas
A good deal of the book is a highly fictionalized story about Houdini. I think this will be most interesting to readers who know nothing about Houdini because it's all new to them. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Eric V. Fry
You know from the start that Martin's memories can't be trusted. And yet you're drawn in. Terrific writing and a fascinating premise that will make you think twice about your own... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Carolyn J. Rose
Now this is an interesting read - If one is interested in the mechanics of magic tricks this could be the novel for you - if one is interested in a thriller using the celebrity... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Weary Reader
Great read. Didn't really know what to expect, but I enjoyed it immensely and bought his other book as a result (and enjoyed that too).Published 16 months ago by Derek J Burney
Well paced story of Harry Houdini. It revealed his personal quirks and his relationship to his wife, Bess and his mother. Read morePublished 16 months ago by dvzydeco
I don't care who you are...at some point in your life you have been fascinated by magic and magicians. It happens to all of us. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Zachary Koenig