One winter's afternoon on Hampstead Heath in 1980, Elise meets Constance 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, 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, and learns that the last person to see her was a woman named Constance Holden...
When a woman gets to her mid-thirties, society expects her to have reached certain milestones: a fulfilling job, a career even, and to have settled on a partner and be seriously thinking about children. This, 37-year-old Jessie Burton’s third novel, is an intelligent investigation into these pressures and their psychological impact. Her particular skill is to explore this in a way that is engaging, entertaining and moving ... With her bestselling debut novel The Miniaturist, Burton proved her ability to create enticing worlds, and she does it again here ... Connie reveals how being a lesbian has made her life more difficult but her sexuality is never sensationalised. Because Burton never judges; rather she lays out a variety of ways of being and the challenges that may come with making honest choices. This is a novel that feels intimate, delving into the mechanics of relationships that women have both with others and with themselves. It’s also a riveting story that will keep you guessing until the end.
...necessary ... As the two stories merge, and the truth about what happened to Elise is slowly revealed, Burton has great fun skewering both the ersatz glamour of 80s Hollywood and our present world of carefully curated lives online ... Yet, while the central plot is moving and the story thoughtfully worked out, The Confession’s real power comes from Burton’s willingness to delve deep into the choices her heroines make and what those choices might ultimately mean ... Serious yet playful, and beautifully told, the result is an engaging and vital novel that, thankfully, puts women’s interior lives centre stage once more.
Uniting the two eras are the challenges that come with womanhood (this is a novel with zero memorable male characters). Both marriage and motherhood are portrayed as threats to the female self, and it’s Connie – mercurial and imposing, yes, but also single and childless – who comes to dominate the story even as age weakens her. That she’s capable of shocking callousness makes her all the more interesting. While Burton resists easy conclusions, calling out the perverse comfort that’s to be had from abandonment and the myriad other ways in which a lover’s hurt can justify shabby behaviour, she does have a weakness for treacly dialogue ... It’s one of relatively few flaws in an absorbing, intelligent piece of storytelling that succeeds in sustaining its mystery to the end.