THE CONFESSIONS OF EDWARD DAY
"Valerie Martin's sort-of thriller, The Confessions of Edward Day, is one of the best novels I've ever read about the actor's psyche…. Martin builds an ominous tension almost Hitchcockian in its trenchant and perverse knowledge about the human animal…. [She] is like a great character actor who never calls attention to the flesh and blood behind the performance, whose art seems to require or at least contain a special kind of humility or perhaps even a desire to sidestep the limelight…. Edward Day possesses a gimlet eye for both the contributions and the eternal follies of his profession…. It's almost enough to make you believe that an actor should run the world. Wait, scratch that – make it a novelist." Read full review
—New York Times Book Review
"The intimacy of Edward's narrative voice is one of the novel's most startling achievements. We gradually cease to like our main character, yet we stagger after him, captivated. Martin's symbolic substructure – layers of repetition and mirroring – is so skillfully embedded in her story that we feel its effects without realizing it, like an understated but persuasive musical score…. Actors are selected for survival, which explains why ordinary people both admire and revile them…. Martin's grasp of the theater world of the period – a pre-AIDS bohemia of cheap rent and earnest artistic exploration-is as sure as her re-creation of Victorian England in Mary Reilly. One never gets the sense that this is a 'historical novel,' packed with colorful but extraneous detail. In fact, her details are masterful in their spareness. Edward's voice is the anchor, and even if he proves to be, at heart, a little less than 'real,' we are more than willing to hear him out." Read full review
—Los Angeles Times
"As an actor who moved to New York in 1970, I inhabited the theater world that Valerie Martin describes in her novel The Confessions of Edward Day. Living on 10th Street between Fifth Avenue and University Place, I drank at Phebe's and the Cedar Tavern, and I worked at the Public Theater when Joe Papp was its emperor – all places where we find Ms. Martin's protagonist, an actor named Edward Day. But conjuring a milieu requires more than just re-creating the physical environment. Ms. Martin knows this – she has previously shown a gift for inhabiting her subject in novels such as Mary Reilly, which captured the Victorian London of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Salvation, about the life of St. Francis of Assisi…. Ms. Martin also gets one thing triumphantly right. At the end of the story, a youngish actor approaches Ed and recalls a role that the older actor played long ago. The part had seemed inconsequential to Ed at the time, and yet the young man says: 'You changed my life.' Ms. Martin has discovered the curse of the profession: Actors can change people's lives, but we have no idea how we do it."Â Read full review
—Edward Herrmann, The Wall Street Journal
"Martin (Mary Reilly; Property) adroitly plays with the boundary between reality and performance in her fluidly written new novel about a group of New York thespians in the 1970s and '80s. Aspiring actor Edward Day is the book's charismatic if self-centered narrator who begins his tale with reminiscences of his deceased mother, a woman whose "gender issues" left him confused and guilty, emotions he mines in his acting. During a New Jersey shore beach party with a group of ambitious fellow acting students including Edward's love, Madeleine, Edward falls into the ocean and is rescued by Guy Margate, who becomes his rival in love and in the theater. The tension and constantly shifting exchange of power between the two men as they battle for Madeleine's attentions and struggle with their careers propels the plot until the love triangle comes to a dramatic head. Guy is a slippery character, while Edward, in his search for truth in acting and in life makes a compelling fictional memoirist. Another winner for Martin, who never disappoints."
"Menace underlies almost every moment of Valerie Martin's latest marvel, The Confessions of Edward Day. Set in the '70s – 'before the soybean had been tamed' – this is a novel full of hungry young pre-Equity actors studying under such Manhattanbased greats as Stella Adler and Sandy Meisner…. Martin's plot is but part of what makes her such a rewarding author. Her gift for suspense is surpassed only by her gifts for dialogue, for description, for variety, for veracity. Not to mention her edge, her wit, her ability to make us smile at the most dire of these actors' times…. Spare with her adjectives, Martin uses only the most apt – and this gives the book's sex scenes a rare transcendence after which, Day says, 'We were quiet then while the world fell back into place'…. Once again, she has drawn us so willingly into her tangled – but always welcoming – web." Read full review
—The Buffalo News
"Martin captures the duplicity of the actor perfectly: Sometimes he doesn't know if he's feeling something or if he's acting…. [She] does a terrific job of capturing what it is to go to auditions, work day and night to keep a roof over your head, share camaraderie and rivalry with peers, all to get that longed-for callback for a really great part."
—The Seattle Times
"A lively blend of heartbreak and truth-telling, self-deception and hope."
—New Orleans Times-Picayune
"[A] smartly-tailored conception…. Martin draws attention to the divide between literary realism and performance; her arena is psychological and her precise metaphors are what the reader cherishes…. Martin's book makes one wonder how anyone can succeed at the tightrope walk of a Brando or Streep, and how anyone could not be tempted."
"The Confessions of Edward Day reveals the world of theater actors in New York in the 1970s – mysterious and charming young people in a great era.Â Valerie Martin has re-created in stunning detail a recent decade that feels as glamorous and remote as the 1890's or the 1920's."
"Edward Day's confession reminded me of how exciting New York theater really was in the seventies.Â Valerie Martin has truly captured the reality of being an actor, and Edward's tale is as suspenseful as a thriller."
"Valerie Martin has given us an entertaining and insightful look at the angst, joy, and heartbreak that is the work of the actor. Bravo."