Confessions: A Life of Failed Promises

Biographer and journalist A.N. Wilson (The Mystery of Charles Dickens) pens a proper memoir of family, failed marriages and promises left unfulfilled in Confessions. He reflects on episodes from childhood to "early manhood" and writes that he is "inevitably made aware of failure, both as a writer and as a human being" in his roles as husband, parent, son and friend. Having witnessed the "forty-year psychodrama" of his parents' inexplicably long-lasting marriage, he was surrounded by male-female discord early on: "marital warfare was the air I learned to breathe." This bad lesson in marital bliss subtly foreshadows Wilson's own disastrous 15-year first marriage to an Oxford scholar 10 years his senior when he was only 20: "she had stolen my youth." Throughout his retrospective, a veritable who's who of Britain's literary world, Wilson struggles to understand the young A.N. who was "so thrustingly ambitious, so full of himself, so unfaithful, not only to his wife but to his own better nature."

Confessions does not hold back regarding Wilson's narrow escape and early brush with sexual abuse at a boarding school, as well his own "quite contradictory opinions" regarding his on-again-off-again relationship with Christianity. Written in a loquacious, charming style, Wilson shamelessly name-drops for negligible effect. (Non-British readers might struggle to make connections outside of Christopher Tolkien, Princess Margaret and a few others.) A must-read for devotees of Wilson's prolific literary output, Confessions is a rambling, poetry-infused remembrance of promises made, broken and reshaped along the way. --Peggy Kurkowski, book reviewer and copywriter in Denver

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