I read a lot of books. I would even say that I read a lot of very good books. But occasionally, just very occasionally, a book comes along that can only be described as masterful.
Anything I could say about Confessions in this review could not begin to do it justice, and for the life of me I cannot understand how I could have never heard of it until the day I happened to pick it off the shelf in a charity shop; how I could have been unaware of the gaping hole in my reading list – in my life – that Jaume Cabré’s masterful work has now filled.
It’s about… well, what is it about? It spans centuries of history, interweaving lives and loves and people. It’s predominantly, I suppose, about an academic living in Barcelona, and his life and how he came to be living it the way he is. But it’s also about the Second World War, and 14th-century Italy, and 18th-century Paris, and the First World War. It is about life. All of it, somehow.
It reminds me of other good books I’ve read – An Equal Music by Vikram Seth, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco, Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier, and the film A Late Quartet – but Confessions is in a category shared by very few, scaling the most mountainous heights of literary achievement. Apart from Umberto Eco, I can’t think of any other authors I’ve read whose works even approach its level.
As I came to the end of the book I found I was almost crying. Not because the ending was sad, but because the book was so beautiful, so perfectly put together, all the interweaving threads so exquisitely brought to a close. I have never read a book quite like it, and I strongly doubt that I ever will again.
This book will sit inside my soul for years to come.