The Confession by Jessie Burton is her third novel after The Miniaturist, her successful debut. The Confession is a contemporary romance about relationships; mother/daughter, romantic, between friends. Are daughters destined to repeat the mistakes of their mothers, even if they have never met?
This is a dual timeline novel. In 2017, Rose Simmons never knew her mother, who left when she was a baby. Rose’s father has always been tight-lipped until now when he tells Rose that the famous but reclusive novelist Constance Holden may have the answers. Frightened of scaring off Constance with awkward questions, Rose instead gets a job as maid/companion for the reclusive novelist, now in her seventies and crippled by arthritis. Unexpectedly Rose comes to like and admire Connie so the longer she works for her the more impossible it is to admit to her deception [she is known to Connie as Laura Brown]. And all the time she wonders if Connie can see her mother’s face in her own. In 1982, we see the story of her mother and Connie. Part-time waitress and artist’s model Elise Morceau meets the enigmatic Connie on Hampstead Heath. When Connie’s first novel is made into a film, the two women go to LA. That’s where the lies start, the cracks appear. Connie is working, Elise is a hanger-on who learns to surf. The turning point comes when she begins to doubt Connie’s love.
At times, Elise and Rose were inter-changeable in my head. Both women are immature, unsure who they are, searching for something they cannot define except that they don’t have it. Elise is in her early twenties, while Rose is in her thirties. I had some sympathy with Rose’s boyfriend Joe and best friend Kelly who both lost patience with her. Both Rose and Elise seem to play at being adults, thinking they are the centre of the world, not understanding that their own actions also leave ripple effects that cause pain to other people. They obsess about being hurt but do not recognise the hurt they cause. Mother and daughter are both passive characters, drifting in their own lives, running away rather than confront difficult situations. Principally, the novel is about life choices, taking responsibility for one’s own life and own choices [and being passive, not making decisions, is a personal choice].
At the beginning I felt for Rose and her absence of self-identity, ‘I didn’t have a mum, and I’d never had her, so how could I miss something I’d never really lost?… I don’t tell people about the yearning. The wonder. I tell them, You can’t miss what you never had!’ But the pace of the first quarter is very slow, it picks up once Rose, aka Laura Brown, starts working for Connie in Hampstead. Ironically Rose finds her sense of self through the very mode of her deception; by creating a new personality and life for herself, assuming the face of Laura that she presents to Connie, Rose begins to understand who she is.
I expected to like this book more than I did, after really enjoying The Miniaturist. Sadly The Confession left me feeling underwhelmed.
BUY THE BOOK
If you like this, try:-
‘Ghost Moth’ by Michele Forbes
‘If I Knew You Were Going to be This Beautiful, I Never Would Have Let You Go’ by Judy Chicurel
‘The Girl on the Cliff’ by Lucinda Riley
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