My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Confessions of X – A Novel by Suzanne M. Wolfe is a historical fiction. Suzanne has written this book on the life of the concubine of Augustine. To help the readers with the interpretation of the word concubine, Suzanne writes in the Author’s Note –
Concubinage involved a monogamous sexual relationship when the man and woman involved were not, or could not be, married for societal reasons. It almost always involved a man of higher social status and a woman of low social status.
As her name is not revealed by Augustine, the author mentions her as X. Suzanne has written the book, as X is reciting her story, herself. X belongs to a poor family. Her mother died while giving her birth, and therefore, she lives with her father, who loves her deeply. He is an expert mosaic maker. He travels frequently in search of work. X is fascinated with her father’s work; she travels with him and accompanies him to his workplace. She watches him creating masterpieces with her innocent and curious eyes. He has one sinful habit, though; he drinks alcohol profusely. One day, she meets a boy named Nebridius in the house, where her father is working. Their meeting is really interesting and funny. Anyway, they become close friends; he calls her Naiad and she begins calling him Nereus. She enjoys his company, but in his company, she realizes the difference between their status. Soon, his father takes her to live with his married sister. She does not have a kid of her own and has a husband, who has lustful eyes and is a very immoral person. After her father’s sudden disappearance, her aunt takes it upon herself to teach discipline to Naiad. In the church of Carthage, Naiad meets a boy named Augustine, who is a friend of Nebridius. Augustine and Naiad become very close. One day Augustine proposes to Naiad – a very strange proposal, one might say –
Believe me when I say, I would marry you if I could, but I am not free to do so; my family would never permit it, not even if we had a child. Do you understand? I can offer nothing but myself. I offer you my love and my fidelity, but, under
the law, you can only ever be my concubine
I did not like his proposal and did not believe his love for Naiad. As the story progresses, Naiad and Augustine’s love found a place in my heart. I began loving them as if I know them. However, the shadow of helplessness in Augustine’s proposal always kept me uncertain about the future of Naiad. When the unfortunate day of their separation comes, I was crying while reading the book. I cannot reveal what happened, but I advise you that you may want to keep a box of tissues nearby.
Suzanne’s writing style is full of simile and metaphors. She narrates X’s story in an elegant, descriptive, emotional, and spellbinding style. She leaves traces of humor, here and there. The dialogues are written to a perfection; as a reader, I felt as if everything was happening in front of my eyes. In the words of X, Suzanne’s philosophical insight into the world is praiseworthy –
It seems to me the world is like a giant mosaic formed from my father’s art—his masterpiece. But from the moment the plaster dries and we walk upon it, it begins to turn to dust. It is the ruin of the world and all its beauty that you hate, not the world itself
This book will appeal to the readers, who like a touch of fiction to the historical facts. This book comprises of intense emotions, love between a man and a woman, a daughter’s craving for her lost father, friendship, sacrifice beyond expectations, a mother’s devotion to her child, the life of slaves and a lot of facts about Rome. I am glad that I came across this book; however, I wish I was reading it with a box of tissues.