Reality and Illusion in the Confabulist by Steven Galloway

The title Confabulist means that a person makes up stories because the person does not know or cannot remember the truth, and narrator Martin Strauss is a confabulist. In the beginning Martin tells the reader that he has a condition where his brain cannot store and process memories and that he killed Harry Houdini. Part of the story is about Martin’s life as he believes it happened and part is factual information about Houdini. A person named Alice comes to visit Martin, and he believes this is Houdini’s illegitimate daughter who has come to hear the truth about Houdini. Martin’s story concerns his loving and leaving Clara, and Martin weaves his story into Houdini’s story. But there are tip-offs that he is confabulating. For example, Martin claims to have been in his twenties when Houdini died in 1926 which would make Martin extremely old. The author expounds on magic tricks and illusions with interesting explanations of some of Houdini’s famous escapes and his fight to debunk spiritualists. It piqued my curiosity so that I had to look up information on Houdini to see what was true. In the end, the truth about Martin’s story can be unraveled enough from the story of Houdini, and Martin’s story leaves its own emotional impact. This is a good book for people who are interested in Houdini, for people who like to analyze characters, and for people who like a different approach to historical fiction.

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