“…two neighbor families, and shameful secrets from the past that refuse to stay buried.”
THEN 1967 – On a quiet street by the sea, two young couples live as next-door neighbours.
Mandy and Steve Mallory‘s marriage is floundering. Mandy fears she is falling out of love with Steve, a policeman, who is finding his job too difficult… Steve longs for a child, whilst Mandy doesn’t think their marriage is a strong enough one to raise children. Steve’s job requires that he forcefully remove Aboriginal children from their homes and the emotional toll it takes on him brings him to a breaking point.
Louisa and Joe Green also have their troubles. Joe is content with his life in Australia, whilst Louise is homesick and longs to return to England. They are the parents of a four-year old daughter, Isla.
NOW 1997 – The young girl Isla is now in her thirties and living in London, England. A phone call from her beloved father sees her flying back to Australia. Once there, old secrets and vague memories come to light.
It is always a treat when you read a debut novel that is written with the skill of a more seasoned novelist. “The Silence” is just such a book.
This is a book about dysfunction. In families and in social justice. Rife with family secrets, shame, moral quandaries, apologies, and betrayal, the novel depicts how secrecy, alcoholism, adultery, and spousal abuse all serve to play a part in the history of two neighbouring families.
Also, the book sheds light on a fact of Australian history that I was previously unaware of. “The Great Australian Silence” which saw children of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples forcefully removed from their families and rehoused. These children are sometimes referred to as “Australia’s Stolen Generations“.
One wee quibble I had was the use of the word ‘but‘ at the end of myriad sentences. Then, I realized it might very well be an Australian colloquialism. It seemed to translate as the word though… (Eg. “Her roses were doing well, but.” and “Bad posture, but.”
Since this is a debut novel, I had absolutely no expectations going in. I discovered it to be a domestic thriller expertly blended with social history. A well researched, skillfully written novel that will likely make my ‘Best of 2020’ list. Highly recommended!
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Borough Press (an imprint of HarperCollins) via NetGalley and Anne Cater.
ISBN: 9780008361327 – ASIN: B07W7BMT22 – 300 pages
Susan Allott is from the UK but spent part of her twenties in Australia, desperately homesick but trying to make Sydney her home. She completed the Faber Academy course in 2017, during which she started writing this novel. She now lives in south London with her two children and her very Australian husband.
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