Confessions by Kanae Minato

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“It’s not just that your bodies are growing and changing. I know what you’ve been up to.”

From the very beginning we are presented with tension between children and their teacher. From the very beginning we know why she is talking to her class about this year being her last.

“So why am I resigning? Because Manami’s death wasn’t an accident. She was murdered by some of the students in this very class.”

The teacher’s daughter, Manami, has been found floating in a swimming pool, and after a brief explanation she tells us at whose hands her daughter has died. And then, before dismissing the class, she reveals a terrible act of revenge on her part toward the two students who killed her child.

Through each subsequent chapter, confessions are revealed through the eyes of a classmate,  one of the murderer’s mothers, and even the murderers themselves.

The confessions are shocking and appalling, but the whole tone of the book is one of quiet resignation. It is almost as though each tragic event is a matter of fate, and must simply be lived out. It is, as my father has often said, like watching a slow motion horror film.

For perhaps worse than the confessions are the hearts of each character, for what they are willing to do instead of forgive. Or, even love.

JLC11I read this fascinating novel after reading the review on su[shu], and now I’m glad to know of another excellent Japanese writer for the Japanese Literature Challenge 11.

Kanae Minato is a former home economics teacher and housewife who wrote Confessions, her first novel, between household chores. The book has sold more than three million copies in Japan, where it won several literary awards, including the Radio Drama Award, the Detective Novel Prize for New Writers, and The National Booksellers’ Award, and was adapted into an Oscar short-listed film directed by Tesuya Nakashima. (from back cover)

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15 thoughts on “Confessions by Kanae Minato”

    1. The pacing, the plot, the way it all tied together with twists and turns that were perfectly timed, is magnificent! I highly recommend this little book (only 234 pages that I read in a day and a half).

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    1. I’ll have to see if I can find the film now, however I usually much prefer the book. Still, it’s fun to compare the two, and this is certainly a suspenseful book which I can imagine would translate well into film.

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  1. I love that she wrote the book “between household chores”, then thought immediately of Kirino’s “Out”, and what those chores turned out to be….It does seem that certain Japanese women have a great deal of anger and their men have no clue about it. It’s the other women who understand. Thank you,I’ll have to read this now.

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    1. It’s interesting that you mention Out because I thought of that novel as I read this, as well. I guess it’s the idea of women and revenge, although this has much to say about the rough age of 13/middle childhood. One almost feels sympathetic to the boys who are so troubled. Almost.

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  2. I read this one a couple of months ago and thought it was fabulous too. A wonderful debut and looking forward to what else she’s going to write!

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    1. I have her next book, Penance, which seems quite good, too. I’ll put up a post when I’ve read it, soon, after I finish Atlantic Hotel for Spanish Lit Month. I’m not surprised we both like Minato’s work. 😉

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  3. I have Penance by this author, but I have yet to read it. I’ve heard about this one and was hesitant to read it. Maybe I should, especially after reading your post 🙂 Plus, I love learning about new-to-me Japanese authors.

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    1. I have Penance, too, on loan from the library. I have to hurry up with my Javier Marias book for Spanish Lit Month so I can read it! Kanae Minato is new to me as well, but she is quite a good writer as far as a tight plot with good suspense goes.

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  4. I’m always reluctant to read books where children are either being harmed, or doing the harming. This sounds like something I could enjoy, if those involved were a bit older.

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    1. I should have been more clear, Ryan, that these “children” are Middle Schoolers (around age 13 or 14). Not that they are this exonerated, for I know exactly how you feel about crimes committed by children. It’s more repulsive than those by adults, as we expect children to be more pure, or at least innocent. But, at the same time, I think that hearts are broken at a very early age, and so much pain can then ensue. At any rate, this is a very well written novel in my opinion.

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  5. I love that you loved this book too! It really just catches you right from the beginning, doesn’t it? And I like that description, like watching a slow motion horror film. The book really does read very much like that. The film, though quite faithful the the book, has made a couple of changes in the way the story is told, and I thought that it was clever. The film stands on its own, as does the book. Both are very good.

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  6. This sounds rather chilling – one I shall have to add to my wishlist. There does seem to be a dark thread in a number of the Japanese authors I’ve been reading

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