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
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
Like a good magic trick, The Confabulist is so cleverly constructed that Galloway leaves you wondering: How did he do it?...It’s a beautifully wrought novel about the grip of illusion and the way we tell ourselves stories to seek redemption, or forgiveness at the very least.
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.
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.
Fabulous . . . A page-turner you'll want to read twice.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?’
[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.
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.
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
“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.”
“Like a good magic trick, The Confabulist is so cleverly
constructed that Galloway leaves you wondering: how did he do it?…A beautifully wrought novel about the grip of illusion and the way we
tell ourselves stories to seek redemption, or forgiveness at the very
novel, and one that virtually demands multiple readings.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Thrilling, sly, and filled
with dramatic moments…The subject matter feels very much of its time.
Houdini’s story though—in Galloway’s clever hands—feels almost timeless.”
“In this engaging novel, based loosely on the life of Harry Houdini, Canadian author Galloway challenges readers to distinguish between illusion and reality through the metaphor of magic…Like a magician, Galloway embeds enough curveballs and red herrings in his narrative to keep readers on unsteady footing throughout, as they circle back to reread a chapter, trying to decipher what is real and what is illusion. This blending of fact and fiction is reminiscent of work by E. L. Doctorow or Colum McCann, ensuring interest for both history and mystery buffs.”
explorations of the relationships between truth and illusion, fiction and
reality, need and conscience are stimulating and affecting.”