The Confession by Jessie Burton

The Confession is a novel about a woman looking for answers about her mother, and discovering not only secrets but ways for her own life to move forward. Rose Simmons is looking for her mother who disappeared not long after Rose’s birthday. A gift from her father points her towards Constance Holden, a reclusive novelist who needs an assistant, for answers so Rose hatches a plan to escape her own life and find out about her mother. And three decades previously in 1980, Elise Morceau meets Constance Holden on Hampstead Heath and they fall in love, but when they end up in Hollywood where Constance’s book is being adapted, things start to fall apart.

Burton uses a classic trope of telling both stories at once to unravel the stories of Rose, Elise, and Constance, drawing comparisons between characters and building up the emotional stakes. Unusually for this style of novel, both plot lines are engrossing in different ways, and feel a lot more focused on the emotions and characters involved than any revelations that are offered to either the reader or the characters. Particularly notable is the dynamic between Rose and Constance, which though built on Rose’s initial lies becomes something that allows Rose to finally find a mother figure right when she needs some guidance. Elise feels less realised, but it starts to become apparent that this is part of the storytelling, in a book that is partly about an author writing or not writing elements of her life, and how people tell themselves stories to get through life.

The Confession is a surprising book that does more than expected, looking at being a mother, finding yourself, and how you tell the story of yours and others’ lives.