The Confession by Jessie Burton review – an understated triumph

By | 2019-09-22 | including 3 items |
Jessie Burton’s previous novel featured an artist and her [muse](https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jun/25/the-muse-jessie-burton-review-novel); this follow-up concerns a writer and her amanuensis. Constance Holden is a reclusive novelist with a formidable reputation who has published nothing for more than 30 years. Now in her 70s and crippled with osteoarthritis, she employs a young woman called Laura Brown as a housekeeper and secretary. Laura assures her that she’s the patient type. “Then I’ll call you the patient typist,” Constance replies. Readers of Burton’s fiction may notice the continuation of a theme, as The Muse similarly began with a young woman being employed as a typist by an inscrutable female art historian. It’s perhaps also worth noting that Burton herself worked as a PA in the City before the publication in 2014 of her million-selling debut, [The Miniaturist](https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/10/miniaturist-jessie-burton-review-history-modern-day-heroine), so has first-hand experience of supporting herself in a menial role while quietly composing a piece of art. The Confession also follows The Muse in establishing a dual time-frame. Episodes set in the present day illustrate Constance’s increasing dependency on Laura as she struggles to break her silence with a new book. These passages are interleaved with scenes from the early 1980s when Constance was at the height of her fame, the author of two influential novels and a much-cited essay on female empowerment. Throughout this halcyon period of large advances and Hollywood film offers, Constance’s closest companion was her lover Elise Morceau; a young, waif-like woman she met while walking on Hampstead Heath in north London.
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