The Confession by Jessie Burton: Emotive Literary Drama

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The Confession by Jessie Burton Book Cover Image


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Category Literary fiction

Format Hardback (local independent bookshop)

Publication Date September 2019

Length 455 pages

Content Warnings References to self harm, depression, miscarriage, abortion, adultery, abandonment by a parent

What It’s About

In 1980, Elise follows her lover Connie from London to LA, where Connie’s novel is being adapted into a major film. Their stormy love affair will leave its mark on the city.

Three decades later, Rose is on the trail of the mother who left when she was a baby. The only clue she has is a book by elusive novelist Constance Holden, who may hold the key to why her mother left everything behind.


First Chapter Impressions

I bought The Confession when I went to a Q&A event with the author, Jessie Burton, at my local independent bookshop. She talked so eloquently about the themes of mothering, womanhood, and sexuality that she wanted to resonate with readers, and I left feeling very excited to read it.

I then put off picking it up for a while, worried that I may not adore it as much as the author’s historical fiction The Miniaturist.

However, with the enthusiastic recommendation of Stephen @ Stephen Writes I pushed The Confession to the top of my list and I am so pleased I did! From the very beginning, the novel proved itself to be the feminist, woman-centred, empowering read I was looking for.

Final Page Reflections

Although it is definitively character-centric, The Confession had me gripped consistently throughout. That’s saying a lot considering I read it at a less-than-ideal time in the midst of university deadlines and had to keep dipping in and out between catching up on required reading.

I loved taking time to step into the lives of these achingly human characters. The author manages the fine balance of portraying messy, damaged people who can repel readers at times without ever becoming entirely unsympathetic.

I am always a fan of dual perspectives and timelines, but often there is one that holds my interest noticeably more than the other. Yet in The Confession the two interconnected so perfectly that it would have been impossible to untangle them and keep the same emotional impact. The past timeline lulled slightly in the middle but then became so unputdownable by the end that it redeemed itself!



Diversity and Representation

There is a lot of bisexual and lesbian representation in The Confession. I liked that it was portrayed as almost incidental, and while the characters endure many traumatic events, the easy option of putting their sexual orientation at the root of this trauma is never succumbed to.

It’s refreshing to see multidimensional stories featuring bisexual and lesbian protagonists that face obstacles beyond homophobia and social stigma.

I also found the novel to be a real empowering feminist read, that explores how women try to carve out a place for themselves and untangle their own desires from society’s demands.


  • Motherhood
  • Family
  • Love & relationships
  • Sexuality
  • Self-awareness
  • Creativity
  • Friendship
  • Fame

Beyond the Book

One of my favourite elements of the novel was Connie’s character development – flawed, bumpy, but noticeable nevertheless – between the two timelines. However, I wondered if this personal growth would have been possible in today’s culture of celebrity influencers and tabloid gossip, where your past self can always come back to haunt you.

Would Connie’s tumultuous younger years have damaged her reputation forever? Could she ever have moved forwards with her relationship disasters lurking in the shadows of the internet? Even without these modern pressures, I sympathised with Connie’s aversion to publicity and desperate efforts to keep her privacy intact.

Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions

1. There are a number of powerful, enduring friendships in the novel. Which one stood out to you as having the greatest impact on the characters involved?

2. Connie develops significantly as a character between the two different timelines, 1980s and present day. Do you think celebrity gossip and tabloid culture renders real human beings two-dimensional and limits personal growth?

3. Have you read any other books by Jessie Burton? If so, how do they compare to The Confession?


Favourite Quote

“Self-consciousness in a woman’s life is a plague of locusts.”

~ Jessie Burton, ‘The Confession’

Read If You’re looking for an emotive literary drama with deeply sympathetic characters.

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You may also like: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Have you read The Confession or any other books by Jessie Burton? What did you think? Let me know in the comments – I would love to hear from you!

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