The New Confessions, Paperback Book
4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


The New Confessions is the outrageous, extraordinary, hilarious and heartbreaking autobiography of John James Todd, a Scotsman born in 1899 and one of the great self-appointed (and failed) geniuses of the twentieth century. 'An often magnificent feat of story-telling and panoramic reconstruction ...John James Todd's reminiscences carry us through the ups and downs of a long and lively career that begins in genteel Edinburgh, devastatingly detours out to the Western Front, forks off, after a period of cosy family life in London, to the electric excitements of the Berlin film-world of the Twenties, then moves on to Hollywood ordeal by McCarthyism and eventual escape to Europe' Peter Kemp, Observer.


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The New Confessions preceded Any Human Heart by a couple of decades (both in authorship and setting), but there are clear parallels between the two. Both are written as the memoirs of elderly men looking back on their lives; both men have had remarkably varied lives, following a numbers of careers and living in several countries; both are transients, their lives battered by the traumatic history of the 20th Century; both men describe their lives with all their faults on display; both suffer from doomed true love, but enjoy other relationships and friendships, but ultimately, the survivors of what they live through, are left alone. The books also share one character - Land Fothergill - who is incidental in the New Confessions, but more significant in Any Human Heart. Like it's successor, the New Confessions is a modern masterpiece, sparingly written, but rich in the essential information, written in an absorbing style. With the exception of the disappointing Armadillo, Boyd must be one of the greatest British authors of recent decades, a superb storyteller as well an eloquent writer.

Review by

An epic autobiography of a fictional character - John James Todd, from his birth in Scotland, through his adventures in 2 World Wars, the silent film industry in Berlin in the 1920s, his blacklisting under McCarthy & his senior years in the Med. There is much that is good & gripping about this novel but it was hard to like the central character - everything is narrated through his eyes & there is very little character development of the long list of characters that come and go throughout the book. I would have liked some other perspectives but nonetheless Boyd does some excellent story telling - the part set in WW1 is particularly vivid.

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