All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Confession by Jessie Burton

on November 4, 2019

The Confession
Jessie Burton
2019, 464p
Copy courtesy Pan Macmillan AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

The sensational new novel from the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist and The Muse.

One winter’s afternoon on Hampstead Heath in 1980, Elise Morceau meets Constance Holden and quickly falls under her spell. Connie is bold and alluring, a successful writer whose novel is being turned into a major Hollywood film. Elise follows Connie to LA, a city of strange dreams and swimming pools and late-night gatherings of glamorous people. But whilst Connie thrives on the heat and electricity of this new world where everyone is reaching for the stars and no one is telling the truth, Elise finds herself floundering. When she overhears a conversation at a party that turns everything on its head, Elise makes an impulsive decision that will change her life forever.

Three decades later, Rose Simmons is seeking answers about her mother, who disappeared when she was a baby. Having learned that the last person to see her was Constance Holden, a reclusive novelist who withdrew from public life at the peak of her fame, Rose is drawn to the door of Connie’s imposing house in search of a confession . . .

I’ve never read Jessie Burton before so this was a great opportunity to finally be able to try her work.  I remember I meant to read The Miniaturist which was made into a BBC television series, but I could never seem to fit it in. I even recorded the tv series but ended up deleting it as I wanted to read the book first. Still haven’t gotten to that yet!

The cover of this is incredibly eye catching, the picture used here doesn’t really do the colours justice. It’s set in two different timelines, the 1980s in London, LA and New York and also 2017 in London. In the 1980s, Elise Morceau, a young woman who left home as a teenager and works in a cafe, meets Constance Holden, a charismatic novelist and the two become embroiled in a passionate relationship. When one of Constance’s novels is optioned for a Hollywood movie, Constance asks Elise to accompany her out to LA while it’s being filmed. There top movie star Barbara Lowden finds herself leaning on Constance as they discuss the ins and outs of her star role and Elise finds herself on the outer.

In the present day, Elise’s daughter Rose is struggling. She’s in her 30s and has never known her mother after Elise disappeared when she was still very young. Rose has always wanted answers and her father hasn’t had any to give her. Rose is treading water – she’s working in a cafe and her 10 year relationship with partner Joe is stagnant. Joe has jacked in his job to realise his food truck dream that Rose has contributed to financially but she’s unimpressed with Joe’s lack of progress and work ethic, the comfortable wealth of his parents providing a cushy backdrop and little motivation for Joe to drum up business. After her father finally gives her a clue about her mother, Rose approaches novelist Constance Holden, determined to get some answers.

The beginning of this was amazing. I wasn’t sure what to read one night so I thought I’d read the first chapter of this and the first chapter of another book and then decide. I picked this up – and didn’t put it down! I ended up reading 100p before I had to go to bed and then raced through the rest of it the next day. The hook is so good and the opening chapters set it up perfectly, introducing the reader to Elise and Constance in the 1980s and then Rose in the present day.

Rose’s idea for approaching Constance has so many alarm bells ringing but she refuses to hear them and she gets quite annoyed when both her best friend and her boyfriend don’t seem supportive. I was sympathetic to Rose’s desire for answers – growing up without a mother obviously left a huge hole in her life and the fact that she just disappeared point blank, leaving a small Rose alone in an apartment until someone came home, would be a really difficult thing to deal with. What had made her do this? How had she never resurfaced? Was she even alive? Would the only answer Rose gets be a body at some stage? But her idea is so out there and the fact that she can’t really see the problem is a little concerning.

The story of Constance and Elise’s relationship is volatile. There’s an age gap between them – Elise is 22 or so and Constance around 36 when they meet. I think Constance is very confident in who she is, she’s also very demanding and seems to like getting her own way pretty much all of the time. She doesn’t make Elise uproot her life but she certainly encourages it and then when they get to LA, she is immediately distracted by many other things…the filming of her book into a movie, the lead actress, the lifestyle. Elise is bored and feeling neglected, wondering why she’s even there if Constance doesn’t really seem to want her or need her around. The cracks start to appear and an unhappy Elise makes waves in just about every direction. I think Elise’s youth came into play here, as well as her own tragic loss of her mother early in life, when she feels the need to take revenge after she is hurt. She kind of tosses a grenade and then it’s all about the fallout.

Rose is not as combative as Elise (of course she also has a completely different dynamic with Constance) and she’s more aware of the things she can and cannot press Constance on, although that doesn’t stop her from occasionally trying to get something out of Constance, fishing for some sort of hint or reference to the past. After a very long hiatus, Constance is writing a book and I think Rose feels as though the answers she seeks will be in the narrative. She seems to be trying to read between the lines for the answers she wants, somehow feeling that Constance is writing this book just so she’ll know what she needs to know. It can’t end well it just seems to be a matter of time before Rose’s deception is uncovered.

I found this a fascinating read and I loved both timelines. I definitely need to go back and read Jessie Burton’s other novels.


Book #179 of 2019



One response to “Review: The Confession by Jessie Burton

  1. Great review!!! I utterly adored this book. Jessie has become one of my fav authors now. I’ve read the muse by her and loved it too, still need to read (and watch!) the miniaturist :)))))

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