Till this morning, I had neither heard of the Japanese movie Confessions nor the novel on which it was based. As usual, I came to know of the movie first. Described as a clever, twisted, revenge drama, I was curious. I could find only a poor print on YouTube but the book was easily available.
Needless to say, I finished reading it in one sitting. Yay! I haven’t lost my super reading powers, yet. Also it’s a fine book. So sharing the plot description available on Amazon.
“Her pupils murdered her daughter. Now she will have her revenge. After calling off her engagement in the wake of a tragic revelation, Yuko Moriguchi had nothing to live for except her only child, four-year-old child, Manami. Now, following an accident on the grounds of the middle school where she teaches, Yuko has given up and tendered her resignation. But first she has one last lecture to deliver. She tells a story that upends everything her students ever thought they knew about two of their peers, and sets in motion a diabolical plot for revenge.”
Whew! That’s a mouthful. Let’s break it down.
As the title suggests, the book is a series of confessions. Different characters tell the story from their point of view (POV), explaining their motivations. Their actions in turn pushes the story forward.
The beginning plunges the readers right away into a class room. The science teacher is giving her last lecture before she leaves the school for good. And yes, as teachers we do ramble too while we address the students like this one did. I have done a million times in my own class. The beauty of this particular speech was the way the author takes those disjointed thoughts and information, skillfully weaves them together to drop a bombshell. Trust me, neither the students nor the readers expect it.
Her daughter had not drowned in an accident but was murdered by two students in that class. Spilling enough clues to identify without naming them, she makes public her method of extracting her retribution.
“You can’t blame your crimes on someone else; they’re your own responsibility.”-Kanae Minato, Confessions
I had goosebumps. Definitely did not expect that.
If the book had ended right there, I’d say that would have been a perfect ending to this incredible story.
The next POV was equally immersive and unexpected. The class monitor who sat in the class and heard her teacher’s tale, takes over. If I ever wanted to know what goes in a teenage mind, this was it. It was fascinating to read how she and her mates processed the same information. Their varied reactions become responsible for the next chain of events. The only thing that nagged me was that in today’s times, none shared any of this with another adult or posted it online. Seeking attention, going viral, even though it meant choosing notoriety, was an important theme mentioned on several occasions in this book.
“That’s all I really wanted,” he said. “Just somebody to notice me”
― Kanae Minato, Confessions
After all, aren’t we all looking for a place in the spotlight.
The other chapters dealt with the two culprits sharing their side of the story individually and a parent of one who comes to know the truth. Each section is brilliantly written. The incident is out in the open, yet it never feels repetitive. The scenes change when viewed from a different point of view. There were instances when I thought that some characters had completely tipped over the edge and yet when I read their version, it all made sense.
“I think we regular people may have forgotten a basic truth—we don’t really have the right to judge anyone else.”-Kanae Minato, Confesions
The mothers depicted in this novel played an important role. The anxious and guilt ridden working parent, the frustrated parent who took a long break from work and felt life skipping by, the protective parent with good intentions. Lord knows I have lived through all the scenarios.
As for being a teacher, I suppose it doesn’t matter whether you are one in Japan or in India. I found our concerns and struggles with the students identical. Our ‘to do’ list is never ending. The management wants all the boxes checked- meetings, reports and extra curricular activities.
I immediately recognized the cram schools of Japan mentioned in the novel. We have the same in India except we call them tuition classes and coaching centers.They promise the moon to the students and their parents. It is hell. Mercifully, that chapter is over for my children. One day, I will blog about it.
As for the teenagers in the book, I feel for them. Seeking approval and acceptance from their peers and adults is tough. One never really knows how far they would go to get it.
“On the other hand, it’s easy to join in condemning someone once someone else has gotten the ball rolling. You don’t even have to put yourself out there; all you have to do is say, “Me, too!”-Kanae Minato, Confessions
Let us face it, children can be cruel. This novel allows us to see their thoughts and they are dark and chilling.
The book ends with a bang. I didn’t see that coming. I read the last pages again and then wished the author had written a page or two more. What an impact it must have made on the screen in the movie version!
On the other hand, I am not too sure how it would have played out in real life. The ending, I mean. I had the same feeling when I finished reading, ‘Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn’. Still I give them both full marks for the diabolical twist in the tale.
On that note, I am done with my massive out pouring of thoughts.
So what do you think? Are you keen to read this book? Do you know of any other titles with twisted plots? Please recommend one to cure me of this bookish hangover. Share in the comments, please.
Till next time!