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on 19 January 2014
I always try to learn something new when I read a book, or at least hope to ! This author has not failed me yet, and I am gradually working my way through his portfolio .
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am amazed at the attention to detail and research that Mr Boyd manages to achieve .
He has picked a life that has certainly covered many ups and downs, and had me in deep thought on many occasions how my own life has proceeded. I am 66 .
Since Kindle and iBooks , I have become an avid reader, and can't wait to start "Any Human Heart" which looks equally enticing !!
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on 24 January 2009
As many others have suggested, William Boyd really is a great writer who has been slightly overlooked, at least by me and most people I know, compared to other (also great) writers of his generation who have been more provocative/public in both their writing and personalities.

The New Confessions takes the reader on a grand sweep through the 20th century, across a range of countries, wars, periods and stages in life, through the lens of the protagonist, John James Todd, born in 1899. The story of Todd's life feels so believable that the book reads like an autobiography and the heart of the book is in Todd's voice and desires, which provide the motor to power the book along. Despite some unbelievable coincidences, my suspension of disbelief never faltered.

Although books of this length and historical coverage can be daunting, the narrative is engaging throughout, and really made me feel I had a true (and yet ironically entirely fictional) sense of what living through the first 3/4 of the 20th century was like. Todd is a man of his time and yet convincingly universal, and that's what makes the book work as it translates the historical moment into universal experience.

Highly recommended.

This is only the second Boyd book I've read and it won't be the last.
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on 30 June 2014
After "Any Human Heart" I was expecting this sort of compelling, personal and very realistic storytelling. At one point, however, I felt the urge to check "JJ Todd" on Wikipedia. Was he really one of the greatest film directors of silent cinema? Of course, the only reference I could find was to the very book I was reading. What makes this book extraordinary is precisely that it almost seems non fictional. Another fascinating account of life in the Twentieth Century by William Boyd! (does he really exist?)
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on 17 March 2014
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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on 12 May 2014
This is a long, and at times quite tedious novel. I find myself skimming over excess writing. This book would have benefited from a rigorous pruning.
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on 21 June 2006
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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on 30 August 2016
Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed The New Confessions, it was not for me in the same league as Boyd's Any Human Heart - one of the finest books I have read in a long time.

This is a lengthy book, another 'fictional autobiography'. I started off well but became a little bored - sometimes confused - in the latter part of the book. To be fair, this may have been my own doing as I began to 'lose the plot' towards the end - perhaps because I was keen to finish the book. At the end, I was left rather confused.

All that said, The New Confessions is a fine book and, of course, beautifully written, as are all Boyd's works. Note: I read this on Kindle and I have to say that the editing of Kindle books never seems to be up to scratch. As a proofreader, I would have made numerous amendments and corrections to the text. I wonder if the book version is the same.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 December 2003
This fictional memoir displays Boyd's consummate skill and style to full effect, ranging across time an place to create a vivid tale. Jean Jacques Rousseau's Confessions is (perhaps arguably) first tell-all memoir, and here Boyd updates it through the reminisces of James Todd. The story unfolds chronologically from his birth in 1899 and upbringing in Edinburgh to the 1970s, when he sits incognito on a quiet island writing his memoirs. The years between are a picaresque journey through the first half of the last century and one man's attempt to create meaning in his life.
The early years in his domineering father's household document an unhappy child yearning for love and approval. His father's quest to perfect and patent medicines provides an uncommonly interesting background for this. When a family friend introduces him to photography, the die is cast. As a teenager, like so many British men of his age, he is swallowed by the first World War, where he is wounded at Ypres. Here, Boyd's descriptions manage to breath fresh life into carnage whose horror has been well-documented. Fortuitously, he is then transferred to a propaganda unit, where his talent in photography is applied to the new realm of film. Captured by the Germans, he languishes in prison, where a guard befriends him and gives him a copy of Rousseau's Confessions to pass the time. The work insinuates itself into him, and it percolates in him in the postwar years as he works in the London silent film industry. Despite marrying and fathering several children, his ambitions remain thwarted and he moves to Berlin to pursue his pet project of making an epic version of Rousseau's book.
In Weimar Berlin he embraces the vibrant (if pfenningless) art community and reconnects with his former guard, who is now an actor. Working together, and with Armenian producers, their careers start to take off and Todd becomes embroiled in a lifelong love affair with an actress. Boyd's description of the inter-war Berlin film scene is so vivid, and the discussion of Todd's career so convincing that one is tempted to put the book down and rush to the video store to see his films. With the juice to get his pet Rousseau project made, Todd throws himself full-tilt into the project, only to see the emergence of "talkies" scuttle it. This propels him to Hollywood, where makes some quiet B-Westerns embedded with subtle social messages until t he next war finds him scrambling around as a war correspondent for third-tier U.S. newspapers.
Following WWII, he falls afoul of the McCarthy witch hunts for communist in the entertainment industry and appears before HUAC. Here, is perhaps the book's one flaw. The HUAC hearings provide Todd with an opportunity to both stay afloat by naming names (some of whom have already named him), and exact revenge on his longtime archnemesis—but he doesn't take it. Although he's presented as variously idealistic and honorable, it's the one time in the book where the character doesn't hold true. And from here, the book bogs down a little, as Todd's current situation as apparent exile starts to loom over the proceedings. Despite a somewhat unsatisiying ending, the story's overall quality is head and shoulders above the pack. Once again Boyd has researched a plethora of subjects and places, and recreates them perfectly. At the same time he occasionally deploys a light comic touch to lighten this story of the search for meaning and the role of chance in life.
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on 11 January 2000
In the general scheme of things, I would recommend this piece of work to any reader. Boyd leads the reader through a highly credible series of exploits, similar to the Flashman series in many ways, and each period is richly explored. The character development is superb, particularly the illustrations of the family members in Scotland. I can't wait to revisit this classic in a couple of years.
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on 18 June 2011
I wasn't sure what to expect with this William Boyd. It's one of his older books and the back cover blurb probably doesn't do it justice. The opening lines are very well crafted and hook you easily. It's a long book but you have to keep reading as you end up not being able to put it down. Interesting use of some large, unusual words throughout. Not too sure they add anything remarkable to the book. The end was a little disappointing as in the last few pages I had become very expectant of something momentous happening, however, all in all an excellent read full of real life characters.
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