Peter Smart’s Confessions

Paul Bailey

Reissue to follow up publication of Paul Bailey’s new novel Kitty and Virgil. Both ‘Peter Smart’s Confessions’ and ‘Gabriel’s Lament’ were shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

The eponymous hero of Peter Smart’s Confessions, an unhappy husband and none-too-successful actor, is writing after a suicide attempt. Peter’s mother, as an actor friend enthusiastically points out, is a comic monster: ‘If you put her in a book – as they say – no one would believe her… Only Wagner could do her justice.’ She’s matched by the larger-than-life eccentric, F. Leonard Cottle, randy retired doctor and author of ‘With Stethoscope and Scalpel’, who employs Peter’s mother as housekeeper after her husband dies. Cottle introduces the boy Peter to the facts of life.

There are some bravura-satirical set pieces on playwrights, players and critics: the staging and reception of a ‘revolutionary’ production of Hamlet based on the premise that he was suffering from congenital syphilis, a pointed parody of Eliot’s The Cocktail Party.

Reviews of Peter Smart’s Confessions

    • The characters have a true vitality in their grotesqueness, and no book is pointless which reminds us of the infinite variety of human experience.Auberon Waugh, Evening Standard
    • The mother in Paul Bailey’s novel is awful enough to be able to bat for England for meanness.Sunday Times
    • The use of dialogue is especially brilliant and even recalls Henry Green.Financial Times