“My first act on entering the world was to kill my mother.” So begins William Boyd’s The New Confessions, the pseudo-autobiography of John James Todd, a Scottish-born filmmaker whose career begins in the trenches of WWI and ends on the Hollywood blacklists of the 1950s.
Todd shares first names and outlook with his hero, French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and spends his career working on an epic film based on Rousseau's memoirs, The Confessions. His quest takes him on a rollicking journey from Berlin to Hollywood, wife to lover, peaks of fame to penury, and leaves a trail of wreckage and memories behind.
Todd is an engaging Everyman anti-hero – likeable even when he is not particularly nice. The book is warm, funny, and full of life from the opening page to Todd’s concluding ruminations.