‘First Confession’ by Frank O’Connor

I first came across Frank O’Connor in an anthology of early 20th century short stories, then again in a miniature collection issued on the 50th anniversary of Penguin Modern Classics. I particularly enjoyed O’Connor’s voice and characterisation.

This story concerns seven-year-old Jackie, who is about to undergo first confession. He’s so afraid of the prospect that he feigned toothache to avoid going with his class – but is still instructed to go by himself on Saturday. His sister Nora accompanies him, goading him all the way there. But what Jackie finds in the confession box is something rather more pragmatic than he expected.

I find ‘First Confession’ a vivid slice-of-life tale. I love the thread of humour running through it (especially the passage where Jackie is trying to find how to sit in the confession box), and even O’Connor’s secondary characters are sharp in the mind.

(First published in the collection Traveller’s Samples (1951). I read it in the Penguin ‘Mini Modern Classic’ collection The Cornet-Player Who Betrayed Ireland (2011). Available to read online here)


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