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The New Confessions

4.1  ·  Rating details ·  1,678 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
In this extraordinary novel, William Boyd presents the autobiography of John James Todd, whose uncanny and exhilarating life as one of the most unappreciated geniuses of the twentieth century is equal parts Laurence Stern, Charles Dickens, Robertson Davies, and Saul Bellow, and a hundred percent William Boyd.  

From his birth in 1899, Todd was doomed. Emerging from his angs
ebook, 480 pages
Published March 30th 2011 by Vintage (first published September 28th 1987)
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Andrew Smith
Sep 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a big fan of William Boyd. He’s a writer who produces one-off novels that can surprise, entertain and sometimes prompt the reader to think rather more deeply on a subject than they otherwise might. I don't always like his books – I disliked Armadillo intensely – but I can never fault the quality of his writing. And he can produce stories that grab you and haul you through its pages and spit you out at the end breathless and panting for more. Brazzaville Beach is a case in point.

So how did
Vit Babenco
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The New Confessions is a long and tortuous journey through life and art and the novel is remarkably innovative. It is the most ambitious and intellectual book by William Boyd and unarguably his best.
Rumors began to spread through the industry about the film, its revolutionary techniques, of a scale and size matched only by the ambition of its director. I suppose early 1929 saw me at the very apex of my fame. Impressive achievements behind me, limitless potential ahead. I was feted, courted, flat
Sep 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this when I was living in France and was desperate for something to read in English. This was on a local bookshelf and I tore through it in two days. I've re-read it 5 times. Boyd's other books are a joy as well but 'Confessions' is definitely one of my all-time favorites.
Andrew Trimboli
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't think it possible to like another Boyd more than I did Any Human Heart, and how wrong I was. TNC, without being hyperbolic, is probably the most startlingly epic piece of story telling I've ever come across. Within pages I'd forgot all about Logan Mountstuart and was utterly submerged in Todd's unrelenting and lifelong plight for true love and a life devoid of calamity. It's incomprehensible how Boyd stitched this whole thing up so perfectly. Superficially he's part linguist, part philo ...more
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Good, maybe even great, certainly dangerously close to great, this fictional autobiography is really something. It's an epic in its way, spanning most of the last century, covering both World Wars and the life preceding them, in between and after until early 1970s. John James Todd is a man worthy of a book, he isn't necessarily a good man, he's something of a cad, completely self absorbed, self important, self all sorts of things...and yet it is precisely his self awareness that makes his retros ...more
Jul 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A 20th Century Masterpiece. So utterly convincing at times you wonder if it's all true! William Boyd seems equally at home depicting scenes of domestic drudgery or the glamourous life of the artist in pre-war Berlin. Pathos, farce, tragedy, it's all here. there are some brilliant passages describing life in the trenches of the First World War evoking the horror, boredom, futility and heroism of life on the Western Front. Equally well written are the laugh out loud sections.

The book is written in
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Basically it's a brilliant read and becoming more fascinating as I go on with the theme of Rousseau becoming more important to the story.
This was written several years before Any Human Heart and is in many ways I think better.

Why are there so few writers who can do what Boyd does? Tell a story. Too many authors are hung up on wordsmithery and being experimental but lack basic storytelling skills.

Incredibly good. Flawed but loveable character of John James Todd.
Robert W
Sep 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recently reread The New Confessions by William Boyd. This is one of my favorite books, and rereading it is always a pleasure. That can't be said about a lot of books, even ones I liked a lot the first time around. The Baron in the Trees also has that quality, and they have an unusual connection in that each touches on the European Enlightenment.

The New Confessions is about a peripatetic English filmmaker whose career reminds one a little of Abel Gance here, Luis Bunuel there, with some D.W. Gr
Oct 13, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: published-1987
Description: The extraordinary, candid story of John James Todd, a Scotsman, born in 1899 and one of the great self-appointed geniuses of the twentieth century. His is an astonishingly rich and diverse career, with remarkable successes and equally dramatic failures. Told in his own words from the vantage point of not-so-serene old age and self-imposed exile, Todd lets us in on the secrets of his fraught and intriguing life.

Beginning with his bizarre boyhood and schooldays in Scotland we move on
Huw Rhys
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What makes a brilliant book?

A compelling narrative, leading to an illuminating conclusion?

Characters who are engrossing, and who we can identify with as being either a bit like ourselves, or like other people we've come across in real life?

Writing which invokes a sense of place and time - sometimes a place once visited, often a time never personally experienced?

Clever use of metaphor and imagery which are able to take us, the reader, to another place to ponder on the pattern of life?

And then tha
Sep 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oops, wait, *this* is the best William Boyd to date, while Any Human Heart, similar in some ways to this one, is a close second.
Mar 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Until fairly near the end of this book, I was labouring under the misapprehension that it was written in 2000 as that was when the edition I happened to be reading was printed. Only quite late on did I realise that it was actually published back in 1987. Which means that it was written some ten years before Any Human Heart rather than immediately afterwards.

I mention this only because there are, to put it mildly, certain similarities between the two books. Both are autobiographies of fictional a
Dick Reynolds
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a startling opening paragraph narrator and protagonist John James Todd claims that he killed his mother by being born. He had a tough childhood because his father didn’t like him much and wouldn’t spend much time with him. He is a Scotsman who ran away from school when he was seventeen to join the army, about a year before the end of WWI, just in time for the battle of Ypres. Author William Boyd gives us plenty of gory detail on the terrible battlefield conditions. Todd is captured by the Ge ...more
Feb 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Low 5. Boyd has produced a magisterial account of one man’s obsession to produce an artistic piece of cinematic homage in dedication to his inspiration, Rousseau’s ‘Confessions’. The protagonist, as in so many of Boyd’s novels, is a deeply flawed character, whose critical eye on those surrounding him does not extend to his own narcissistic tendencies, and whose disregard for the distress he causes others displays the same cold aloofness which his own surgeon father had shown him. John James Todd ...more
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William Boyd is not the kind of writer who wows you or hits you over the head with his writing, but ever so subtly he draws you into the story and before you know it you are half way through and wanting more. John James Todd, the fictional autobiographer, begins the narration with his birth in 1899. Each chapter closes in 1972 with words from the present day protagonist as he assesses himself at age 73 looking back on his life which took him to both World Wars and to America. A seminal moment fo ...more
John Bowen
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not just my favourite of Boyd's books, one of my top five all time favourite novels.

The life of John James Todd is never less than incredible, darkly comic and enthralling, soaked through with wit, memorable characters and period detail, this fictional autobiography of an unsung silent movie auteur is simply magnificent.

The great war, ensuing german depression, the (for Todd) unwelcome birth of talkies and the impact of McCarthyism are delivered so convincingly if you tore the cover off and lent
Ginni Dickinson
Mar 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
William Boyd brings to life the turbulence of both world wars and the red scare in this novel through the eyes of a creative and narcissistic filmmaker who never gets recognized as the genuis he is. It took me quite a while to really like this book. The main character, John James Todd, is so flawed. But eventually I developed empathy for him and wanted to see how his life would play out. I really enjoy Boyd's writing. His method of developing a story through the eyes of an unlikable or flawed ch ...more
Sep 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Boyd's masterful writing embodies everything I look for in a book. His original plots, combination of serious subject matter interspersed with humor, and all too human characters with their many foibles, make for enjoyable reading. I loved the background of early cinematography and the textured layers of John James Todd.
It will be interesting to see what he does with James Bond in "Solo" to be published soon. I trust he will bring uniqueness to a well-worn subject.
Apr 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book bears re-reading. It is effectively a social history of the first half of the twentieth century. I wish I was familiar with "The Confessions" by Jean Jacques Rousseau, because I am sure I missed many parallels between the two books and the lives of their authors, one real, one fictional.
Ruth Seeley
May 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read it twice. It was just as compelling the second time.
Liz Beeckmans
Sep 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I do enjoy reading William Boyd. There are pleasant similarities with a few of his novels but that's no bad thing for me.
Tony Mac
May 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first of Boyd's fictional autobiographies and by far his longest and most ambitious. In this book Boyd isn't simply inclined to chronicle a 20th Century life, but also to use his hero JJ Todd as a modern parallel to the Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, with particular emphasis on his (apparently) ground-breaking autobiography Confessions. Hence Todd's story becomes the New Confessions, while filming a cinematic version of the original Confessions becomes his life's work.

Mar 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a third of the way through this novel & don't want to finish it, so I'm stopping here, during WWI. I just don't like a single character in this book, and find the narrator especially despicable. He throws rocks at dogs! Plenty of narrators in other books are also unlikeable, but in those, the writing is pleasing. In this case, I don't find the author's humor vey funny - more sad than rye- which is, I think, why I'm not enjoying the book overall. I only get one life, & I'm not going ...more
May 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This fictional biography of Scotsman John James Todd is epic in scope ranging from 1898 to 1972 covering his early life to his service in WW1 ,his life as a film director, family man, love affairs, life long friends double crosses and lots of money as well as poverty. Then in California disaster strikes. The book is never dull, and full of humour, obsession, and suspense.
Cathal Kenneally
A long time since I've read a William Boyd, but he's still a great storyteller. Almost as good as Any Human Heart. In truth I always enjoy reading his books. This is told from an autobiographical perspective and it's so authentic; this is why he's such a great writer because he keeps his audience entertained right to the last page
Boris Feldman
3.5. Boyd is one of my favorite authors. Passages in this novel are underlineable. The overall story of the main character's life is rather bleak. I certainly learned a lot about Rousseau!
Peter Burton
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly good read,believable enough to make you think it could actually be true.A man's life story,warts and all, like his hero,Rousseau.
Dec 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A greatly enjoyable read, up there with the likes of Jonathan Coe and William Nicolson.
Oct 07, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I love books from W.Boyd, the way he tells stories... but for this one I had some difficulties to "go inside" the story. I prefered Any Human Heart. So 2 stars only.
Tim Armstrong
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a wild trip of a book, and one that Boyd has kind of re-visited in some of his other books, most notably "Any Human Heart".
The stories are obviously different but the idea of telling a story of someone's life and combining that story with parts of history, with some of the significant characters from that history and you have a book like New Confessions.
It's a wild ride of a book that only Boyd could pull off with great aplomb!!
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Note: William^^Boyd

Of Scottish descent, Boyd was born in Accra, Ghana on 7th March, 1952 and spent much of his early life there and in Nigeria where his mother was a teacher and his father, a doctor. Boyd was in Nigeria during the Biafran War, the brutal secessionist conflict which ran from 1967 to 1970 and it had a profound effect on him.

At the age of nine years he attended Gordonstoun school, in
More about William Boyd...