A teacher finds out that two of her students murdered her daughter and finds herself conflicted between her duty as a teacher and her despair and drive for revenge. This book even from the premise sounds insane and incredibly dark, doesn’t it? Confessions is the debut novel of Japanese crime writer Kanae Minato and is one of only two of her novels that have been translated to English. After reading and loving Penance I knew that I had to pick this book up.
This was actually a really difficult book to write a review for because when I finished reading I was left speechless for good and bad reasons. It’s absurd and unbelievable and the story relies heavily on plot twists to keep the story chugging, a sign of poor writing technique. The story is heavy handed and it is very clear that this is a debut work. Despite all that I found myself utterly engrossed in the story and characters and wanted to know what would happen next, finishing the book in a day.
There are a lot of themes and social commentary to dissect in this work: revenge, mob justice, bullying, juvenile crime, hikikomori, depression, motherhood, the list goes on and on. The one caveat I have to give to Western readers is that this book is extremely Japanese (duh, I know) and one will need to understand certain terms of aspects of Japanese culture to fully understand and appreciate the work.
“But doing something good or remarkable isn’t easy. It’s much easier to condemn people who do the wrong thing than it is to do the right thing yourself.”
Where Minato shines is in the way she writes complex and well defined characters that seem to fall into a moral grey area. Every character has desires, motivations, anxieties, they are so well drawn out especially in the way that they are presented. You see, the book is told from multiple points of view and each narrator unravels small pieces of a much larger and extremely complicated plot. The way that the characters talk about each other adds a new layer to their personalities and I loved how this book constantly challenges your previous assumptions about a particular character or situation.
The book is more than the typical crime thriller because of the way that it handles the characters and situations in the novel. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out how exaggerated the story is, it will definitely test the boundaries on what a reader can view as realistic and believable by venturing in the absurd. If you can forgive the borderline ridiculous plot twists this book is a thrill ride that is hard to put down. I loved it even when I was shaking my head at how brutal but also silly the characters could be. It’s a fun read and a decent book for those looking to get into Japanese crime literature. It has a dark and tantalizing premise and has such strong characterizations that the book is satisfying for someone looking for more than just empty thrills. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more English translations of this author’s work in the future and I suggest you all do too.
Author: Kanae Minato
Translator: Stephen Snyder
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Publication Date: August 19, 2014
Her pupils murdered her daughter. Now she will have her revenge.
After calling off her engagement in the wake of a tragic revelation, Yuko Moriguchi had nothing to live for except her only child, four-year-old child, Manami. Now, following an accident on the grounds of the middle school where she teaches, Yuko has given up and tendered her resignation.
But first she has one last lecture to deliver. She tells a story that upends everything her students ever thought they knew about two of their peers, and sets in motion a diabolical plot for revenge.