Confessions, by Kanae Minato, is a disturbing tale of blame and revenge. Set in contemporary Japan, it introduces the reader to a group of young teenagers, their teachers and families, who are each struggling to deal with the impact on their lives of the death of a four year old girl.
On the last day of the school term the dead child’s mother, a teacher, accuses two of her pupils of murdering her daughter. She then reveals her revenge for this act, from which events spiral to their chilling conclusion.
The story is told from the perspective of a number of key characters, enabling the reader to better understand why each acted as they did. None come out well in the unfolding drama. The same weaknesses and blind spots are apparent in different guises, each participant justifying their actions with reasoning that blames others, only rarely accepting any fault for themselves.
The author presents the mind of a killer in a disturbingly believable way. The desire for attention and praise are explored alongside a lack of empathy. The effect that other’s actions may inadvertently have on critical decisions is presented alongside how acts of vengeance can cause ripples in the lives of those close by.
The style of the writing is sparse but engaging. Sympathies are won and then lost as the tale is developed, the shocking denouement denying the reader any relief from the relentless unravelling of lives that had previously been considered so ordinary.
The book leaves much to mull over, not least how blind families can be to fault amongst their own. No answers are offered, except perhaps a warning against seeking revenge. There are no winners in this tale.
I liked the exploration of prejudices, how society judges those who do not conform to an ideal. I recognised and was discomforted by many of the observations. The actions of these protagonists may be extreme, but the catalysts which drove them to act as they did are all too obvious in a society that may not be as civilised as some would like to believe.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Mulholland Books.