Deftly exploring the deterioration of relationships and the devastating truths we keep from those we love; The Silence is a stunning debut from a rising literary star.
1997 London: Isla Green is awakened by a call in the middle of the night – it’s her father Joe, phoning from Sydney. 30 years ago, the Greens’ next-door neighbour Mandy disappeared, the police are now investigating, and Joe was the last person to see her. Recognising the call as a cry for help, Isla makes plans to return home to Australia. Isla has been dealing with a few issues of her own including grieving for a broken relationship and struggling with an alcohol addiction – she is only eight weeks sober.
1967, Sydney Australia: Mandy and Steve are going through a rough patch in their marriage. Mandy isn’t ready to start a family; she may never be, and Steve is desperate for children. A policeman, he’s also deeply uncomfortable with his involvement in removing indigenous children from their families.
Next door, Louisa and Joe are also struggling in their marriage. Louisa is desperately home sick, and Joe is abusive and drinking too much. Pregnant Louisa flees with Isla and returns home to her mother, while Joe and Mandy find comfort in each other.
When Isla returns home to defend her father, she is alone in believing that Joe is innocent of any involvement in Mandy’s disappearance. She has always turned a blind eye to Joe’s behaviour. However, when she starts doing some investigating of her own to prove his innocence, she realises things don’t look good…
Moving seamlessly between the two time periods and two families, author Susan Allot has created a palpable sense of darkness, starting with the book cover, which is so atmospheric. There is an eerie quality about this story, making you question what is really happening behind the closed doors of perfectly tended houses and gardens. Tension builds, and looms leading us to examine not just these individual families but the culture of 1960s Australia.
The Silence, while a thriller, also explores sexism, domestic violence, alcoholism and touches on The Stolen Generation. The focus is on the family and relationships rather than the nuts and bolts of the investigation and although I do enjoy that element, The Silence went much deeper and it was compelling.
This is a substantial and exciting debut that I found hard to put down, the characters stayed with me for some time after reading it and I won’t be the only one eagerly awaiting the next offering from Susan Allot.