Confessions by Kanae Minato

Posted On 30 July 2014

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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.

15 Responses to “Confessions by Kanae Minato”

  1. jenclair

    Boy, this one does sound intense. I haven’t heard of this one before or seen the film, but your review certainly caught my attention!

    • lynnsbooks

      I thought it was really good – it’s a bit out of character in terms of my regular reading but I’d seen the film a couple of years ago so really fancied giving the book a go.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Oh, I love when I find a book that I just can’t put down! This sounds like a wonderful and complex book. “revenge comes across very quietly and creepily.” – love that.

    • lynnsbooks

      Yeah, this was really good. It’s not a scary book but it’s sort of creepy getting into the minds of some of the students! It’s quite out of character for my usual type of read but I saw the film and really liked it so wanted to give this a chance and see how it comparied.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Genki Jason

    Great review. I have not read the book but I will. I know you’re watched the movie and liked it. I’ve started buying her books based on the film adaptations and I’ve got Shokuzai (Penance) and I’ve ordered Shirayuki Satsujin (Snow White Murder Case).

    Lots of her books are getting adapted into films and they are slowly coming over to the UK. I looked on my Kindle and Confessions is due for a release in August.

    There is another writer whose works keep getting adapted and he is Shuichi Yoshida. His book, Parade, is about a group of twenty-somethings who are all living together in an apartment and all living unfulfilling lives. They let in a mysterious drifter around the same time a series of murders occur in the local area. The film is very hypnotic in the way it establishes the routines of the characters and it’s somewhat bleak. The ending might not hit the spot but some like it.

    Natsuo Kirino writes lurid crime stories which are pretty easy to read and full of great, complex female characters. Asa Nonami is new to me and I’d start buying books if they were on Kindle but since they aren’t I’m hesitant (due to a lack of space).

    • lynnsbooks

      I thought the book was really good and definitely might pick up some of her others based on this. Plus, the film pretty much sticks to the story (if I remember correctly.
      Parade sounds very unusual – I might check that out, thanks.
      Plus Kirino sounds interesting – thanks for that tip.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Tabitha (Not Yet Read)

    Sounds interesting but ultimately not for me. I don’t know what it is but I’ve never really felt up for the translated books. Though I love the Japanese culture. That’s awesome that you’re doing such a challenge. Do you really like the Japanese culture hence why you’re doing that particular challenge?

    • lynnsbooks

      I decided to do this challenge mainly because it’s very laid back (and, yes, I’m interested in the culture) and also I want to read some of Ishiguro’s novels and there’s a readalong involved in September – I’m much more likely to read and complete it if I’ve undertaken to take part. Everyone always raves about Ishiguro’s novels so I really feel like I should read at least one. And, one of my other blogger friends Jason ( loves everything Japanese – he’s learning the language and reviews A LOT of films – anime and manga. It’s amazing how much blogging has encouraged me to do other things – for example doodling!
      Lynn 😀

  5. Bellezza

    Your review mentions all of the qualities that I love in Japanese literature: gripping, uncluttered writing which make a comment of some sort on society/culture. i can tell that the theme alone, (or one of them, as in motherhood) would greatly appeal to me. Thanks for the great review! I’ll try to get it from NetGalley, too, as i don’t own a copy of this.

    • lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed it. I hope you pick up a copy. Would like to know what you think of it.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Two Dudes in an Attic

    I’m a bit late to the party here. I think you should read more Japanese books. :p I’m not at all biased. Though to be honest, I haven’t read much contemporary Japanese fiction. Just some classics for class, and a ton of SFF and Murakami Haruki.

    • lynnsbooks

      Haha, not at all biased. I can’t believe I haven’t read any Haruki – I really will do so, very soon. I had intended to take part in a readalong this August but the timing was off as I was away for the first two weeks.
      Lynn 😀

  7. orangepekoereviews

    I’m really looking forward to this one. Hopefully I will find time to read it for this year’s challenge.

    • lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed it. It’s a very compelling story. I hope you get a chance to pick it up.
      Lynn 😀

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