Book Quote:

“What actors know about emotions is that they come in pairs, often in direct opposition to each other. That’s what it is to be conflicted. We want what we should not want and we know it. We desire that which is dangerous or forbidden and might cause us to suffer.”

Book Review:

Review by Danielle Bullen (Sep 30, 2009)

With The Confessions of Edward Day, the Orange Prize award winning author Valerie Martin has created an engrossing fictional memoir. The title character guides the reader through his adventures as he strives for professional success on the stage in New York, while also fighting his personal demons.

Most the action takes place in the 1970. Edward and some friends, all fellow actors still waiting for their mythical “big break,” rent a summer home at the New Jersey shore. There, he falls for Madeline and the two spend the night together. One night, Edward swims out to far in dangerous surf and one of his housemates, Guy, rescues him. That neighborly action will have far-reaching consequences, as Edward and Guy develop a competitive relationship, each always trying to one up the other.

Much of their aggressiveness centers on work. The action quickly transitions back to Manhattan, as the characters audition for even the smallest Off-Broadway parts, hoping to move up to Equity theatres and their union wages. At first, Guy is more successful, causing Edward to resent the person who saved his life.

Martin’s skillful prose takes us into the heart and mind of Edward, showing what it means to be a “starving artist.” The German word schedunfrede loosely translates as “happiness at the misfortune of others.” When Guy makes his Broadway debut, Edward gleefully tells the readers, “The New York theatre critics were unanimous in their contempt.” Meanwhile, his own star starts to rise. Edwards joins a summer stock troupe in Connecticut and critics rave, “Newcomer Edward Day commands the stage.”

Acting is not the only power struggle between Guy and Edward; they also do battle for the affections of Madeline. After the time at the beach house, Edward is devastated to learn that Madeline is dating Guy. That’s not the end of their story, though, as Madeline and Edward have more secret meetings.

Madeline justifies sleeping with Edward by telling him Guy is impotent. When Guy dramatically catches the two, he tells Edward that Madeline was using him, that it’s a lie. We never know whether Guy is covering up his embarrassment or whether Madeline did make the whole thing up. Either way, the jockeying for supremacy in Madeline’s eyes informs many of the characters’ decisions.

Edwards’s professional and personal lives come together in a performance of Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanya, where he is cast opposite Madeline, as clandestine lovers. The novel succeeds at bringing the reader into the secret world of acting-the rehearsals, the backstage squabbles, the physical and mental preparations, all of which are often more entertaining than the play itself. That certainly proves to be true in an encounter between Edward and Guy in Edward’s dressing room during one intermission, one that will change the lives of Edward, Guy, and Madeline.

The Confessions of Edward Day is a real page-turner. In Edward, Martin creates an honest, complex, true-to-life character whom the reader can’t help but root for, flaws and all.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0 from 20 readers
PUBLISHER: Nan A. Talese (August 11, 2009)
REVIEWER: Danielle Bullen
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Valerie Martin
EXTRAS: Reading Guide

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September 30, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Facing History, Reading Guide, US Mid-Atlantic, y Award Winning Author

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