Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Confabulist: A Novel

Title:  The Confabulist:  A Novel
Author:  Steven Galloway
Publication Information:  Riverhead Hardcover. 2014. 320 pages.
ISBN:  1594631964 / 978-1594631962

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Favorite Quote:  "The truth wasn't easily identifiable. You could spot a lie, but the opposite of a lie wasn't always the truth."

The word "confabulist" does not exist in the dictionary. The closest words are "fabulist" and "confabulate." According to the dictionary, a "fabulist" is a person who invents or relates fables or a person who lies. The verb "confabulate" in psychiatry means to "replace the gaps left by a disorder of the memory with imaginary remembered experiences consistently believed to be true." The implied question in these words of what is real and what is an illusion lies at the heart of this book.

This book is a proposed story of Harry Houdini and about a man named Martin Strauss. The lives of the two seem to interconnect in so many different ways over the years. The book weaves back and forth through different time periods and through Martin's memories. Somewhere, the line between reality and illusion is blurred, and the two merge. To complete the illusion, the book is populated with historical figures such as the Romanovs and Arthur Conan Doyle.

The book begins with three intriguing ideas:

Martin is told that "You will in essence, Mr. Strauss, lose your mind."

Martin thinks, "What is a memory anyway, other than a ghost of something that's been gone for a long time? There are secrets that I've kept. Maybe they should stay secrets."

Martin declares to the reader, "What no one knows, save for myself and one other person who likely died long ago, is that I didn't just kill Harry Houdini. I killed him twice."

The story then proceeds to draw on all three ideas. It tells of Martin's past and his uncertainty.
It also tells a story of Harry Houdini - his role as an entertainer, his relationships with his mother and his wife, his beliefs in the difference is giving people a show versus preying on their spiritual beliefs, and his unusual role during the World War. Martin's story weaves in and out of Houdini's story. The more intriguing parts of the book are Harry Houdini's.

In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It has that same magical quality about it, and a similar circular approach to the story. Fanciful and not be believed, yet believable at the same time.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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