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Published in 1824, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner is widely regarded to be James Hogg's best work. But does that mean it's any good?
The story is about a young man named Robert Wringhim who has been brought up to believe in a very Calvinist doctrine and therefore believes that he is predestined to go to Heaven, no matter what he does on earth. He meets another man, Gil-Martin and is heavily influenced by his arguments and beliefs. He becomes suspected of carrying out some horrible crimes.
The novel is split into two parts, the first of which is The Editor's Narrative. This half of the book sets the scene by giving us some history of Robert's background and telling events from what is presumed to be a non-biased point of view. The second half is presented as a document found in Robert's grave years after the events took place. This is his own private memoirs and retells what happened from his personal point of view. As the two accounts vary we see that things aren't perhaps as simple as they first appeared.
On first reading, I found this novel quite difficult to get into. However, once I was past the first few pages it became easier to read and by the time I was into the second half of the book, I was gripped. This has become one of my favourite novels and I have read it numerous times. With every read I pick up on little details I missed before. James Hogg's novel is definitely worth persevering with. Even almost two centuries on it has the power to shock and on finishing reading, you won't be able to stop thinking about it for ages.