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48 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars another triumph
The New Confessions has similarities to Any Human Heart, encompassing as it does a man's life from boyhood through to old age. The main difference is that while Any Human Heart unfolded contemporaneously in the form of a journal or diary, The New Confessions is written retrospectively - an old man looking back on his life, remembering the highs and lows.

The...
Published on 13 April 2007 by Leyla Sanai

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The New Confessions
Not one of his best.Someone said a novel has a start and an end with a muddle in the middle,and this was one of those! Also the Rousseau theme did not work.
Published 5 months ago by philip hancock


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48 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars another triumph, 13 April 2007
By 
Leyla Sanai "leyla" (glasgow) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The New Confessions (Paperback)
The New Confessions has similarities to Any Human Heart, encompassing as it does a man's life from boyhood through to old age. The main difference is that while Any Human Heart unfolded contemporaneously in the form of a journal or diary, The New Confessions is written retrospectively - an old man looking back on his life, remembering the highs and lows.

The story is as gripping as any of Boyd's novels, largely due to Boyd's immense talent in imbuing the ordinary with rivetting, magnetic fascination. The ordures of public school initiation, the fierceness of first love (or crush), the passions, terrors, obsessions and regrets of any life, are magnified and captured with breath-catching aplomb. Boyd is one of the few writers - Updike, Ishiguro and McEwan also spring to mind- who can make the reader giggle uncontrollably one minute and in the next reel from some gut-wrenchingly vivid drama.

The New Confessions follows John James Todd from his childhood in Edinburgh, under the care of his austere surgeon father and his sharp-witted and idiosyncratic nanny Oonagh , through schooldays and friendship with the mathematical child prodigy Hamish Malahide, to adulthood with all its attendant thwarted dreams, shocking traumas and rich relationships. John James may be selfish and self-centred - SPOILER: not only is he serially unfaithful to his long-suffering wife Sonia, but he has the cheek to hire a private investigator to see if she herself is being unfaithful; not only does he repeatedly chastise his older brother Thompson in his autobiography for being uncaring, but he manipulates Thompson into arranging a bank loan on which he subsequently defaults, and makes a pass at Thompson's wife; not only does he fail to ask others about their problems or lives but he witters endlessly about his own talent; not only does he cruelly note all physical flaws in his wife and brother but he deludedly comments to himself on his own good looks. Yet despite these glaring faults, John James is also funny, articulate, intelligent and a compelling character to read about. He is passionate about his career, his friends and his one true love. And Boyd's novel transports you in a hypnotised daze through all these beautifully drawn characters and events and manages to be sharp, witty, touching, devastating and gorgeously written at the same time. Another classic from one of our top five living British authors.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to mess up your life in 500 pages............., 30 Nov 2004
By 
Tony Jackson - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The New Confessions (Paperback)
I struggle with some of Boyd's writing - but find the two quasi-autobiographical novels (Any Human Heart and The New Confession) truly outstanding.
They both take you on a rampage across the 20th Century - but whilst based on a similar premise are utterly different.
In this case the lead character is fascinating, flawed and disturbingly like many people you know in his ability to make the wrong decision at each moment of truth.
I am impressed with Boyd's ability to design fictitious lives in such detail - it really makes you feel as if he is a biographer who has researched his subject for years.
Impossible to put down. Truly excellent.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 20th Century Masterpiece, 21 Jun 2006
This review is from: The New Confessions (Paperback)
So utterly convincing at times you wonder if it's all true! William Boyd seems equally at home depicting scenes of domestic drudgery or the glamourous life of the artist in pre-war Berlin. Pathos, farce, tragedy it's all here. There are some brilliant passages describing life in the trenches of the First Word War evoking the horror, bordedom, futility and heroism of life on the western front. Equally well written are laugh out loud sections.

The book is written in the style of an autobiography, which gives the tale an added dimension. As you see everything through John James Todd's eyes, it's not long before you realize that although he may be in some ways brilliant, there is also a lot going on that he really dosen't have a clue about.

As you progress throught the book you'll ask yourself, is our hero mad, or a genious? John James Todd lurches from one scene to another with breathtaking style but not always with dazzling results. It's rather like watching Maradonna charge down a football pitch leaving the opposing teams players strewn on the ground behind him, before scoring the perfect goal, only to realize he's put the ball in his own net.

The plot moves along rapidly and you won't want to put the book down.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New Confessions, 3 Aug 2010
This review is from: The New Confessions (Paperback)
This is an memorable evocation of a life, in my opinion the best William Boyd book so far. The characterisation rings true at every turn. John James Todd is a particularly masterful creation; I found myself simultaneously cringing and profoundly empathising with Todd's inability to control his self-destructive impulses. Boyd also creates a great sense of location atmosphere, I particularly enjoyed the Berlin and Hollywood scenes. A must read book!
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond compare - breathtakingly written, and superbly paced, 16 May 2001
This review is from: The New Confessions (Paperback)
The strength of Boyd's imagery is so strong, that it leaves a very deep imprint on the readers mind.
You feel like John James Todd takes you on a journey through the 20th Century - from the horror and darkness of the First World War trenches, to the glamour and grime of Hollywood. The storytelling is superbly paced and peaked - a rollercoaster ride of emotions. But this is only taking the book at face value. The New Confessions is actually a book of a film within a book - with a highly accomplished mirroring of Jean Jacques Rousseau's The Confessions. Boyd has not only succeeded in updating the characters and action from one of the most highly regarded pieces of literature of all time, he has in many ways surpassed it.
I cannot recommend this highly enough - it is not an overstatement to call reading this book a life changing experience. You will not want it to end and will go back again, time and again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving and funny tour of the 20th century., 12 Feb 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The New Confessions (Paperback)
Picaresque is the word I guess - a loose amble through the twentieth century, but at the same time utterly gripping - variously comic, philosophical, moving... for me, it turned me back on to British fiction after a disillusioned separation of several years. When I finished the book, I felt I'd lost a friend....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow to start up, wonderful overall, 13 Jun 2010
By 
Christopher Brown (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The New Confessions (Paperback)
It took as much as 100 pages for me to get properly involved with this story, and I was starting to think about giving up - which I hardly ever do. When the story starts to flourish it does so with depth and passion and overall is something of a work of art.
Its not the first time I've found it taking Mr Boyd a while to get the story set up (A good man in africa is another example) but its always been worth the effort in the long run.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The autobiographical novel at its peak..., 9 Dec 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The New Confessions (Paperback)
Spanning the century, and told from the particular and mocking, self-critical and self-opinionated perspective of its (anti?) hero, Boyd immerses you in the realities of twentieth-century history. Particularly telling are the detailed descriptions of combat in the First World War, the expatriate vision of inter-war Berlin, the Englishman in Hollywood's cynical view of the burgeoning, but tawdry, American film industry (and the spitefulness of the McCarthy commy-hunts), and the search for real emotional satisfaction and meaning. Another unique, crafted and believable book from an author who always seems to be at his peak.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The New Confessions, 17 Mar 2014
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This review is from: The New Confessions (Kindle Edition)
Not one of his best.Someone said a novel has a start and an end with a muddle in the middle,and this was one of those! Also the Rousseau theme did not work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable retelling of the plotline of Any Human Heart, 27 July 2013
By 
Angus Jenkinson "angusjenkinson" (Cambridgeshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The New Confessions (Paperback)
This is a kind of partner to Any Human Heart. These two novels give us key themes of William Boyd and it's quite remarkable how similar the structure and storyline is. They are reflections on life lived in the century in which it was lived. Any Human Heart deals with a writer in search of his Magnum Opus, which never comes. Here we have a filmmaker in search of his Magnum Opus which never comes. In both cases they show a flash of genius that they cannot sustain. Life gets in the way. They both come from middle-class backgrounds. They have parents who expect something else of them. They both spent time in solitary confinement. And in the war. They both spent time in America and the Spanish Civil War. They both have a wife they leave acrimoniously and get cut off from children. But they have other lovers, losing great loves but finding others, including ones they meet up with again over the years. They both end up living in a kind of retreat in poverty but with preserved circumstances. They are both watched the 20th century unfold and their stories are linked to the events of the 20th century. For example, in this book, John James Todd is derailed by the McCarthy era when he is labelled a Communist. Our protagonist here doesn't make it to Oxford, he has to go to university north of the border.

Does that make it better because you can compare storylines and views of history or derivative or does it just mean that the author found a great plotline and repeated it with a twist? Well whichever, it is still a very good book. I think Boyd is one of those literary writers that you can enjoy on the beach.
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