By Andrea Mau
Web Content Contributor
Recently I decided to revisit Confessions by Kanae Minato, a book that had quite an effect on me in the past, and has only proved more chilling than I originally remember after a second read.
The story follows Yuko Moriguchi, a middle school teacher who has recently lost her 4 year-old daughter in an accidental drowning. However Yuko suspects the truth behind her daughter’s death, and on the same day she announces her resignation from the school, also declares her vengeance against two of her students who she knows participated in the murder of her daughter. What follows is a thrilling psychological chase between a vengeful mother and her terrified students.
Confessions is short but full of baggage to unpack. The novel has many layers to it as constant twists rupture any preconceived assumptions about where the storyline could be headed. A book about a simple murder becomes much more complicatd as the many dark issues (bullying, child abuse, AIDs, domestic abuse, animal abuse, school bombings, suicide, etc.) begin to surface and overlap with the main mystery.
However what is truly exceptional within Confessions is its subtlety. This is something I could not quite fully appreciate until my second read. Upon revisiting (which I would recommend because of the book’s short length) the foreshadowing of future events is much more pronounced in a way that has you gobsmacked you couldn’t see it before.
This can be mostly attributed to the style of the novel, which is deceptively simple upon first glance. Minato has a laid back way of storytelling that tricks the reader into a sense of ease, making shocking scenes all that more unexpected in the novel. The first chapter is especially effective in this way, as it starts off in Yuko’s polite and cordial voice, announcing a deceptively common school procedure.
This sense of minute deception carries on to the protagonist, Yuko. All of the characters within Confessions are moving in their own complicated way, but Yuko takes the cake. The main character is disturbingly calculated, which is heightened by her seemingly harmless demeanor as a school teacher and mother. It is this very underestimation of her character that makes her so efficient as a puppeteer, as she uses the immorality of her victims against them. This makes Yuko one of the most fascinating, clever and badass women I’ve ever read in a thriller.
I admire Kanae Minato’s ‘take no prisoners’ approach to morality in this novel. By far the most shocking aspect of this book is its depictions of youth, as their scheming and brutal actions place them into a decidedly malevolent view. Confessions doesn’t just take away the myth that children are incapable of evil, but explores the idea fully in ways that are uncomfortable for the reader. It is psychological horror at its best by presenting an issue that is conflicting even for the reader.
What’s the best about Confessions is that the reader is never too sure who to root for, because just like real life, people and issues are often morally grey and there is no right answer. Because of this conflict the novel truly challenges the reader’s sense of right or wrong. That is, if the killer kids hadn’t already done it.
Confessions by Kanae Minato and translated by Stephen Snyder is a must-read novel available on Amazon Prime. The film version directed by Tetsuya Nakashima is also an excellent adaptation and is available for free in two parts on Dailymotion: part 1 and part 2.
Featured screenshot by Andrea Mau via Tetsuya Nakashima.