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The Confessions of Edward Day

3.45  ·  Rating details ·  456 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews
A brilliant new novel set in the bohemian, glamorous theater world of 1970s New York, by the Orange Prize-winning author of Property.
It’s the 1970s in New York—rents are cheap, love is free, and with the explosion of theater venues off and off-off Broadway, aspiring actors will work for nothing in no clothes. Enter Edward Day, who wants more than anything to move an unsu
Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 13th 2010 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2009)
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Deborah Edwards
Dec 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When “The Confessions of Edward Day” first came out, a very famous novelist reviewed it (quite favorably) and said that it was a “self-contained gem” because it “never purport[ed] to be more than it seems to be (a tale of ambitious young actors struggling to get ahead in the New York theater scene in the 1970s).” Although I respect the author and her favorable review, this novel is much, much more than a book about struggling actors. Yes, it utilizes the theater and its players to effectively ex ...more
Aug 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Valerie Martin has an unequaled ability to capture the essence of a character and build a page-turning story around it. I was sucked into Edward Day's life as if by an industrial vacuum cleaner, fascinated by his persona and the events that shaped it.

As the story progresses, a peculiar tension builds around Edward Day. It is a struggle not between good and evil or anything nearly as mundane as good guys versus bad guys, but rather a growing realization that he may be the villain of his own memoi
Jan 03, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a piece of trash. As an actor, I was excited by the idea of this book, hoping to glean some insight into what it was like to be a professional actor in NY in the '70s. But while that's how this book is marketed, instead it has one of the most ridiculous, soap opera-ish plots I've ever read. Apparently Ms. Martin thinks that dropping names like Pinter, Meisner and Adler somehow legitimizes the book as being about acting. But the lead character is much more interested in where to stick his me ...more
Jun 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: doubles
The 'confessions' are a pseudo-memoir, by an author exploring acting from from the outside. All the more impressive, then, that actors and critics have treated the book with respect. It has been widely reviewed, attracting some eminent commentary, particularly in relation to its setting – 1970s Broadway – and insights into the acting profession.

As usual, Valerie Martin walks around her topic to observe all sides, and isn’t scared of big themes. This time it is life and death, the double, the Se
Sep 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
What a wonderful treat this book is! I tend to forget Valerie Martin. On the one hand, this means that I end up missing her novels. On the other hand, I get to rediscover her often which sort of fulfills my fantasies of re-reading various books & authors for the first time all over again.

I spent most of my twenties & thirties in theaters. First as an actor & later as a director with my own production company. Acting was fun because it provided me with an opportunity to explore sides
Dec 04, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found myself somewhat perplexed, though highly entertained, by this book. It's the story of an actor in the 1970s, his career on the stage and his friendships within the theater community, as well as a deeply antagonistic relationship with a disturbed doppelganger who saves him from drowning early on. While the tension of the relationship between Edward and Guy, a kind of manifestation of his baser self, is what drives the plot of the novel, much has been made among reviewers of the way in whi ...more
Oct 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am almost certain that I read a bad (maybe in both senses of the term) review of this book that made me hold off on buying it for a week or so after I read (and loved) the sample chapter on my kindle. I can't find that review anymore, and I'm glad, because I loved this book (except for the ending, which I didn't quite believe; or rather, I believed the very last part, but not the path the main character takes after the denouement).

Set mostly in 1970s New York, it both evokes what it was like t
My grad school adviser recommended this book to me after reading a short story I wrote about community theatre actors. I liked the story itself, but I found basically all of the characters at basically every moment to be as insufferable as the most insufferable "theatre kids"--painfully self-absorbed and filled with a strangling sense of self-importance.

Side note: I can't retain the title of this book for the life of me. I've had to Google the name every single time I've wanted to mention it to
Kasa Cotugno
Oct 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Early in this fictional memoir a young aspiring actor is saved from drowning by another who closely resembles him, setting in motion a life long complicated relationship. The "memoir" develops as their lives diverge and they meet with differing successes in love as well as on the stage. Martin sets the novel in the New York theater scene of the 70's and 80's for plot convenience, illustrating the power play through her protagonist and his savior/nemesis. It is constructed like a play, with 3 act ...more
Nov 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Valerie Martin is a wonderful writer. Her novels are all different from each other; she never repeats herself. What does get repeated is her ability to create a very flawed narrator who sucks you into his life -- which can feel quite chillingly uncomfortable -- and this novel is no exception. She can also be wickedly funny at times and that's the case in this novel too. (Near the end of the book, the 'voice' felt a bit like a Paul Auster narrator to me, perhaps because of a sort of doubling them ...more
I loved this book. I found it compelling and odd. Edward Day is an actor, whose life is saved by another actor who strongly resembles Edward Day. This lifesaving doppelgänger becomes a menacing presence in Edward Day's life. The two men share love and career interests and their careers and love love-lives are negatives of each other. The book is a bit of a psychological thriller. I was never quite sure about what was real as I read the book and what I was supposed to have been believing.
Jan 22, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disappointing, given what I recall to be a bit of a rave in the NYRB. The acting life in free-swinging, mid-70's NYC might seem to be rife. The self-obsessed narrator sure thinks so. But the decision/need to goose the plot with suicide (2!), a bloody failed birth, near-death from drowning, amnesia (!), a gay coming out (duh!), acting epiphanies and more melodramas tips us (ok, me) well over the top. The ending -- "you changed my life" -- is just too, too much. I suppose that's the point.
Sep 13, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Having really liked Martin's Property (imho rivalled Kate Chopin), I was very disappointed in this novel. I expected more; this is a beach read filled with anachronisms.
Jim Leckband
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Confessions of Edward Day" surpassed every criteria that I ostensibly have for a five star book. I couldn't put it down, but I didn't want it to end. The prose was light but perfect and Martin expertly followed Elmore Leonard's dictum "Don't write the stuff readers skip." The richness of the characters was superb. Edward Day and Guy Margate as doppelgangers, almost alike but not quite (and intertwined like Night and Day, like Sea and Sky), Madeleine as the Tennessee Williams-like frail dram ...more
Amanda Morgan
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Maybe I’m sick of reading celebrity “tell-alls” or formulaic murder mysteries, but “The Confessions of Edward Day” kept me up late at night relishing the vivid imagery, not wanting to put the book down even though I knew I should be sleeping instead.
Set largely in the 1970s New York City theatre scene, where working actors struggled to make a living, struggled to figure out their characters and struggled to have personal lives, Edward Day recalls these days when he was in his
Sharon Pisacreta
Readers shouldn’t be surprised that a book beginning with the line “My mother liked to say Freud should have been strangled in his crib.” is going to take a strong interest in the psychological quirks of its characters. And what a fascinating – and quirky – group of characters it showcases. First and most important is the narrator of the piece, Edward Day. Day is an ambitious actor who may not always be likable, yet remains sympathetic as we follow him from struggling acting student days to succ ...more
Jul 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This fictional memoir surprised and amazed me. Valerie Martin (Mary Rielly, Trepass) vividly captures the life of an actor in New York in the 1970s. This was a time when actors were clammoring to get in class with Sandy Meisner, Stella Adler, and Uta Hagen, and sat over drinks discussing nothing but their methods, their motivations and their roles. Edward Day takes us on his journey to find truth in his life, and, thus, truth in his acting.

Actors are a strange breed, and Valerie Martin gave us
Marguerite Kaye
Dec 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What is real and what isn't? What is personality and what is persona? When are we acting and when are we simply being? Is all the world really a stage? These are just some of the questions this book raises.

At the centre of the story is (purportedly) a love triangle between a man, his lover, the man who saved his life, and who becomes her husband (I know, it does sound a bit like a Peter Greenaway film). They are all actors, the female successful, but the careers of the two male protagonists are
Jan 13, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a novel written in first person from a male actor’s point of view. The author is a female non-actor. Though this disconnect was extremely obvious at times, it seems Martin did an extensive amount of research on the New York theatre community in the 70s. It struck me how little things change. Actors still have to work just as hard as they ever did, dressing rooms are still relatively shitty, actors still sit around and argue about why they should or shouldn’t go equity – the reasons are s ...more
Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On the reading front I just finished Valerie Martin's The Confessions of Edward Day (Nan A. Talese, 2009). I have never been a big fan of reading fiction and usually pick up any fiction book with great trepidation. But coming across a reference to the book in my reading travels I was intrigued (can't remember where, most likely the New York Review of Books). Upon opening the book I found myself drawn into the story unable to put it down. Martin's writing is heady and rich and follows the career ...more
Feb 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aspiring actor Edward Day narrates his own story which largely pivots around his attraction to one of his fellow aspirants, Madeleine, and a life-changing incident when they, and a group of actor friends, attend a weekend beach party in New Jersey. Having already formed an attachment to Madeleine, Edward goes for a late night stroll and, after a freak accident, falls into the ocean, only to be saved at the point of drowning by party guest Guy Margate. Grateful for his life, Edward is perturbed w ...more
May 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fascinating book. As a person involved in live theatre, I might be a bit partial. For me, it was delightful to read frequent references to Pinter, Stanislavsky, Chekhov, Shakespeare, and Broadway. The storyline reaches out to grab you like Guy Margate does to the shady protagonist from a "rip current". The author, Valerie Martin, keeps you watching the revolving doors of auditions and relationships until she brings the story to a unique climax. The disappointing aspect of this novel is the last ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Oct 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nov-dec-2009
Like Martin's novel Mary Reilly, which is narrated by Dr. Jekyll's faithful servant, The Confessions of Edward Day manages to be both subtle and forceful. Critics praised Martin's ability to slowly build tension and keep readers on the very edge of their seats. They also enjoyed her depiction of the struggling actor's world, with its endless waiter jobs, auditions, insecurity, and cutthroat competition. One notable exception, the critic from Newsday, felt that Edward's character bordered on cari ...more
May 25, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably closer to 3.5 but I'll round up given that I found it engrossing, well-written, and stayed up far too late on a weeknight to finish it. Martin says something I liked about complicated love. Despite individuals' efforts to make it less complicated, their narratives straightforward, easier on the psyche, sometimes love (and other emotions) are tangled up in such a way that it is impossible to unravel without cutting it into countless pieces. And that is the decision that some are faced wi ...more
A good beginning, terribly disappointing ending. Also:

- broke actors didn't own answering machines in 1974
- most vehicles didn't have back up beeps then - they only started getting phased in in 1970
- messing around with sweet cocktails and calling them martinis didn't happen until the 1990s
- people were not making mix tapes in 1974
- Tofu Pumps weren't introduced until 1985
- while Polaroid begin selling the kind of camera that spits out the picture in fall 1973, the idea that a broke actor would
Jan 28, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a period piece about a group of would be stage actors working their way up or not in New York in the 70s and 80s. The story is told in memoir style by Edward. The book opens when he learns of his mother's suicide. He was her favorite child and immediately is encompassed by guilt for not returning her phone calls.

He goes on to study acting and is on a summer escape with some friends on the jersey shore when he falls in the ocean late at night and is saved by a "rival" actor. The savor - G
Daphne Atkeson
I don't know why I read this book all the way through, except the writer's engaging style and curiosity about the big reveal. The message is that actors have no souls or morals beyond the parts they play. Lead character is an actor is saved from drowning by another actor who is his shadow personality. The main character shows no growth or change and the big reveal is anticlimactic at best. Prominent author, who's won the Booker Prize, which made it eminently readable and the nuances of character ...more
Aug 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The center of this book is a love triangle, where Guy and Edward fight it out for Madeline, and part of what I really liked was that even in the end it isn't clear who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. Someone is lying, but who, and about what? How did Madeline get seduced away, what was their relationship about? Many questions remain but in an intirguing "can't get this out of my mind" sort of way.

Also enjoyed the descriptions of the acting classes and moments of finding raw emotion thro
Sep 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Oh, I don't know. Valerie Martin loves her doubles and that's fine but it's not for me, it always feels like a trick someone is pulling just out of my sightline. Edward is irritating and Guy is like a slightly more sympathetic Ripley, but I actually like Ripley so whoops. The real loser in the bargain is Madeline, who we learn little about, despite the many dramatic life events through which she is shuffled. And a story about a woman torn between two men is wicked boring if we never really know ...more
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Valerie Martin is the author of nine novels, including Trespass, Mary Reilly, Italian Fever, and Property, three collections of short fiction, and a biography of St. Francis of Assisi, titled Salvation. She has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as the Kafka Prize (for Mary Reilly) and Britain’s Orange Prize (for Property).
More about Valerie Martin...
“Sex can be estranging; it can drive two otherwise compatible people apart.” 14 likes
“(M)uch as we might imagine we can leave the past behind, it has a nasty way of pressing its hoary old face against the window just as we were sitting down to the feast.” 6 likes
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