Confessions by Kanae Minato
Confessions is a compelling and shocking story narrated by individual characters whose separate chapters will eventually reveal a full picture of the events that occurred leading up to the death of a young girl.
The story starts in a highschool classroom where a home tutor (Yuko) informs her students of her decision to leave her job. She relates a story about how she came to be a teacher and goes on to more personal issues including why she raises her child (Manami) as a lone parent – sometimes necessitating bringing her to school. (Unfortunately during one such occasion Manami goes missing and her body is eventually found floating in the school swimming pool.) Yuko believes that two of her students are responsible for the death of Manami. And so the story begins.
I wondered if I would enjoy Confessions for two reason (1) it sometimes feel that translations quite literally do lose something in translation – slight nuances and descriptions for example – and this can sometimes give the text a quite blunt feeling. (2) I’ve already seen the film for this and so wondered if it would lose some of the suspense.
Neither fear turned out to be well founded. This book gripped me in a way that meant I was virtually unable to put it down.
As I said above the story is related by different individuals. through which we eventually build up a picture of three of the students and three of the mothers involved. Starting with the teacher we move on to other key players including the two accused students. Each chapter builds upon the last as you uncover a different side to the story. Each provides an intense and sometimes scary insight into the motivations of each character and more than that displays how small misunderstandings have the ability, Chinese whisper style, to turn into a much bigger issue. I loved the complexities of this story and the way that all the strands from each character eventually paint a much bigger picture.
The writing style is very straight forward and uncluttered, you could accuse it of being a little stark and yet I enjoyed if for this particular story. It doesn’t need flourishes and embellishments but works on a much more psychological basis and the sparseness of the writing helps to reinforce that somehow – like there are no distractions just very straight forward accounts from each narrator that are sometimes sad, sometimes shocking and sometimes will turn your feelings on their head.
Nothing here is quite as it first seems and I sometimes felt myself having sympathy in the least expected place!
It’s a story that takes a look at motherhood. It looks at the way that the pressures of society work differently on people. It delves into the effects of peer pressure. It shows the impact that a simple misunderstanding can have and the ripples that can cause. A book of murder and revenge – where strangely enough the murder is almost downplayed and the revenge comes across very quietly and creepily.
I definitely recommend this book.
This is my second book towards the Japanese Literature Challenge (8) being hosted over at Dolce Bellezza details here.
I received a copy of this courtesy of the publishers through Netgalley. The above is my own opinion.