Preview Reviews: The Silence by Susan Allott

Preview Reviews: The Silence by Susan Allott

Susan Allott’s latest book is an intricate mystery, just waiting to be revealed to readers. A unique tale of family and history, The Silence surrounds all things dark and hidden.

Read our Preview reviewer thoughts here:

This is a great book! It did take me a couple of chapters to get used to the style of the story, but once you get into it, it really grabs your attention and it’s hard to put down! – Eliza, QLD, 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book – it’s a slow burning mystery novel about the disappearance of Mandy the neighbour of the main character Isla Green. I loved the split narrative between the past and the present day, I personally preferred the past – I loved the atmosphere and the mood the author created. Being from the UK originally but living in Australia, I enjoy reading Australian authors and learning about this country, the book touched on a topic I had little knowledge of pre reading this book, it was heartbreaking to learn of the stolen generation and to think this happened not that long ago and Im glad the author has shone a light on this tragedy. It’s a great read and I would definitely recommend, thankyou to better reading for the preview read #betterreadingpreview – Emma, VIC, 4 stars

A perfect read for a long haul flight or a day’s retreat from the bustle of life, The Silence is best absorbed as a whole. The narrative is told from two different times. There are also location changes and personality developments of the characters which all require concentration. These factors are intertwined with some of the darker sides of Australia’s history involving the treatment of it’s first peoples and the disenchantments of many of it’s keenly sort after 1960’s immigrants. Understandably relationships flounder under the pressure of the reality of their circumstances with grave outcomes for all.  The unrelenting heat of the 1967 Sydney summer permeates the pages of that era and it mirrors the discord of the two neighbouring households.   Susan Allott has penned a story which presents the reader with a collection of flawed characters. Potentially it could lead the reader to seek more information regarding the plight of the victims of one of the most misguided and cruel policies ever undertaken by government agencies.   Grandma’s question to Isla is one that bores deep into the heart of us all. If questioned would our responses be as honest? – Diedre, VIC, 4 stars

The Silence… if this is Susan Allott’s first novel then this lady is in for a stellar career as a writer.  Her parallel story lines not only cross the back fences of suburbia but they also cross the world, eras and inter-generational indiscretions, some of which are deliciously personal, some of which are poignant (and sometimes ugly) tales of Australia’s overtly racist and very “white” governance during the during the mid-twentieth century. The Silence flits back between different households, different time frames and different parts of the world, but it is in no way difficult to follow. Its descriptive settings are vivid without being flaky or over-fluffed, the story line was intriguing and its characters complex albeit somewhat damaged as a result of social expectations of their times. What a great read! – Alana, VIC, 4 stars

Beautiful writing that captivated me from the start. Deeply flawed characters that left you trying to understand them more often than disliking them. The mystery itself slowly unraveled and within it a necessary story was told. For me, growing up in America and moving to Australia 5 years ago, it was my first time learning about the Stolen Generation, but it certainly won’t be my last in exploring Australia’s history and The Silence that still seems to be at play today. Thank you Susan Allott for this must read book. – Erin, NSW, 5 stars

This is a hard one to review. It was a little too drawn out I think, with not much happening. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. 2 and a half stars. – Hanadi, NSW, 3 stars

I enjoyed this book very much. The story between two neighbouring families, the mystery of what happened to Mandy and the events leading up to her disappearance are told through a series of flashbacks from 1967 to 1997, alongside the present day story of Isla learning to manage with the things she learns about Mandy’s disappearance.  The Silence is an engaging, thought provoking read which had me compelled to continue reading throughout. A well-written, enlightening novel that I would recommend. – Sandee, NSW, 4 stars

Loved it kept me hooked to see what happens.  Love the strong  characters will read again soon. – Beth, TAS, 4 stars

During the Summer of 1967, Mandy the Greens’ next-door neighbour disappears. It is now 1997 and her family is now trying to locate her but there is no trace of her. Isla’s father, Joe is the last person to see her alive.    Isla returns to Sydney from London to support her family during the investigation. The more Isla delves into the past the more she learns that things are often not what they seem and through her own persistent questions the truth is finally realized. The story is told mostly from the perspective of Isla aged 4 in 1967 and aged 35 in 1997.    The book also tells briefly of a part of Australia’s history which until recent years has remained largely untold and the information at the end of the book warrants further reading on the subject.    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I was born in 1966 and can recall the stinking hot summers and days spent at the beach and hedges between houses as described. – Carolyn, WA, 5 stars

The Silence by Susan Allott    Set in the late 1990s, Isla Green returns to Australia after a decade long absence, compelled to delve into her family’s past to make sense of recent events. Looking back to Isla’s childhood evokes nostalgic feelings of life in Australia as it was in the late 1960s. As we now understand, this was an era of simplicity in no small part because so many things were simply left unspoken.    And the silence is deafening. While exploring the themes of domestic violence, addiction, mental health issues, adultery, deception,  death, and the trauma of Australia’s stolen generation, Susan Allott’s story explores how staying silent can have life-altering and tragic consequences.     The Silence stayed with me well after I had read the last page, contemplating the trauma that many families were still carrying decades later, and the burden of their responsibilities and choices. The impact on those who were, by a sense of duty, unwillingly involved in one of the darkest times in Australia’s recent history gave me pause for thought. The Silence is an engaging mystery set in a bygone era that isn’t as far in the past as we may hope. – Maarit, ACT, 4 stars

In Susan Allot’s debut novel relationships collapse as decades old secrets are brought to light. A slow read that drew me in wanting to learn all that was revealed in the conclusion. The character of Joe was hard to like and I struggled to feel for him as it seemed he deserved what was happening to him. Overall a great read and an author that I’ll be watching out for. – Vanessa, NSW, 4 stars

Susan Allott , the author of The Silence , launched me straight into the storyline , my favourite start to a book .  The Australian coastline , which was simply and uniquely described , was where the majority of the story was set .  Two neighbouring families , all with underlying individual issues in their own lives ,  collide over the years to create an intriguing mystery .  As the story developed the chapters of the book seamlessly transitioned between the sixties and the nineties and included many moments in Australian history . One sad and shameful part of that history was a real eye opener . It had a huge impact on one character in particular which then created a huge part of the storyline .   I liked the suspense and would have been  happy to keep reading but of course the ending came and while I   didn’t predict the outcome , for some reason it wasn’t a total surprise .   Really worth reading and I am looking forward to Susan Allott’s next book . – Gail, NSW, 4 stars

At last, a maturely written Australian story, weaving our tarnished history into an easy-to-relate mystery spanning decades. Full of characters who could easily be the neighbours you grew up with, you find yourself remembering your childhood along with Isla, as she struggles to understand her own family history. This book is easy to read but not so easy to pick where the story ends up. I found myself guessing what was going to happen next, but was wrong with every turn of the page. Isla and her father are likable characters, despite their flaws – when Isla realises she has become her father, you feel a great sense of wanting to help her. The brutal history of the stolen generation is told from the other side, the impact felt throughout the book as you understand the emotions of both the families having their children removed, and of those who physically removed them. Sympathy was a big theme in this book for me. I wanted to reach across time and help someone, and the characters in this book made it easy to feel that way. – Nicole, NSW, 4 stars

‘The Silence’ revolves around the lives of two married couples, who are next-door neighbours, in the suburbs of Sydney. One couple have a young daughter, and the story jumps back and forth in time from 1967, where one of the wives goes missing, and 1997 where the now grown-up daughter seeks to find answers to her neighbour’s mysterious disappearance, which, shockingly, has gone undetected for 30 years.    The novel delves into uncomfortable themes of domestic violence, alcoholism, adultery and the Stolen Generation. At times, the domestic violence is heart-wrenching and particularly difficult to read. Ultimately, all of the characters are hiding secrets and are not particularly likeable.     The devastation and fragility of alcohol addiction is well written, and demonstrates the horrific consequences that can come with addiction. – Karlie, SA, 2 stars

An absorbing mystery set in an idyllic, beach-side Australian community with lots and lots of secrets.    The description of the setting was eerie and beautiful. I found the characters to be very realistic. Everyone was flawed in a way that I found reminiscent of ‘The Girl on the Train’.    The narrative links to a controversial and difficult time in Australia’s colonial history, but the author deals with this with the utmost respect and, consequently, gives a voice to those who need it most. I would be very interested to see how non-Australian readers feel about that element of the book.    I very much enjoyed the writing style, moving between different time frames and also different narrators. I connected more and more with each character as I heard their perspective and learned of the events that lead them to the current events.    I read this book compulsively, I needed to find out what had happened and the sooner, the better. It was a very good read and a real stand out for a debut novel.     Many thanks to the author, Better Reading and Harper Collins for allowing me a sneak peek preview in exchange for my honest review.  – Rebecca, QLD, 4 stars

What a page turner. From the early morning phone call in London, Isla is torn between supporting her father, who is accused of murdering Isla’s much beloved neighbour,Mandy, and is divided about where she should be and what is important to her- in London where she works and lives, or in Sydney where her father moved the family in the 1960s. A childhood described in great detail about Australian suburbia, the heat of summer, the nearby beach, the “stolen generation”, a sense of loss and secrets.All those silences of things unsaid in family and a nation – a common phenomena in 1960s Australia. I loved the dialogue and the well drawn characters and the evocative atmosphere that the author Susan Allott has created. The reader is drawn along through a wonderfully crafted novel that is “unputdownable” to the surprising end. Would make a great telemovie I think. – Kay, QLD, 5 stars

I have really enjoyed reading Australian mysteries recently and this was another great read.  Susan Allott’s debut novel , ‘The Silence’ was easy to read and hard to put down from the first page. The book is set in two separate years 1967 and 1997; and moves between these two years investigating the disappearance of Mandy who goes missing in 1967. Mandy’s disappearance affects the relationships in two families and for me, the drama of these relationships over 30 years is what draws you into the book.  The characters are all flawed which keeps you guessing as to what happened to Mandy and who may have harmed her. ‘The Silence’ also touches on the heartbreaking theme of the Stolen Generation in Australia which is significant with this week in Australia being Reconciliation Week.  I really enjoyed this book and would happily recommend it. – Donna, NSW, 4 stars

Set over two separate time frames and told from multiple points of view, this gripping tale captures your attention from start to finish.    Isla, living in a flat in Hackney in 1997, wakes to a frantic phone call in the middle of the night from her father, Joe. He explains he needs her to come back to her childhood home in Sydney, as he needs her help.  Mandy, an old neighbour, who has been missing for the past 30 years, is now presumed dead, and Joe is alleged to be the last person to see her alive.    The story takes up back to when Isla was a little girl  in a quiet street by the sea. Her family lives next door to Mandy – who never wanted children and Steve, a troubled cop, struggling with the horrors his job brings, and desperate for a child.    Who were Mandy and Steve ?  Was life back in 1967 really as innocent as Isla remembered, or was there something more sinister about the way Mandy just disappeared.    Returning to Sydney, Isla who is dealing with her own demons, fights to clear her fathers name. Delving deeper into the lives of not only Mandy and Steve, but her own parents, she begins to unlock some long forgotten memories.    How much did her mother know ?  Was her father really capable of something so terrible ?  What secrets would she uncover once the digging had begun.    An exploration in to the lives of the 2 couples, their estranged interactions and a string of tragic events, leads to unravelling of the past and the devastating reality of the present.     The Silence, is a dark and emotional story, that keeps the reader guessing.  This remarkable debut, is an enjoyable read from the beginning to end.    Special thanks to the author Susan Allott and the Better Reading Team. – Suzie, WA, 4 stars

Susan Allott’s The Silence is an evocative study of memory, truth and lies and the effect of these on the relationships with those the characters love.  Isla has  a new life in England but is called back when her father is under suspicion for the murder of a neighbour 30 years before. Childhood memories resurface and secrets are slowly revealed through the eyes of the central characters. A slow burning, thoughtful and powerful work that stays with you long after the last page. Loved it. Thank you Better Reading and Borough Press for my advance review copy, will be rereading this again – Juanita, NSW, 5 stars

‘The Silence’ by Susan Allot is a contemporary mystery novel,  moving from events in 1967 to 1997 and slowly develops to reveal the dysfunctionality of family, the secrets they keep,  and relationships engulfed in betrayal,  alcohol abuse & loss.  I found the story enjoyable,  especially the ability of the author to portray the reality of hot coastal Australia in her prose, and found there was enough suspense to keep me interested.  Overall a worthwhile read with thought provoking subjects at its heart.  Thanks to Better Reading for the chance to read and review this debut novel. – Anne, TAS, 4 stars

Susan Allott’s debut novel artfully entwines confronting themes – the Stolen Generation, domestic violence, addiction, PTSD  – with a decades-old mystery. Family secrets unravel and the uncomfortable truths simmering beneath suburban Australian life are forced into the open. Isla Green returns to Sydney from London in 1997, when her father Joe, an alcoholic, becomes a suspect in the case of their neighbour Mandy who went missing 30 years ago. The story flicks back and forth from the 60’s to the 90s as Isla, herself an addict, tries to deal with her splintered family and wrestles with her memory in a hope to reveal the truth of what happened.    Fans of Jane Harper will enjoy the atmospheric, multi-layered plot. There is a lot packed in to a fairly short, well-paced read; but the characters do seem fully realised and shifting viewpoints through the chapters allow the reader to understand the conflicting facets of each. None of them are all good, none of them are all bad. They’re shaped by their country, their history, their family; and they cannot move forward until, much like Australia as a whole, they acknowledge their past. – Katrina, TAS, 4 stars

Susan Allott’s novel ‘The Silence’ is a moving and absorbing novel. We follow Isla as she returns from London to Sydney at the request of her father, who is now under suspicion of the murder of their neighbour, Mandy, who disappeared 30 years ago. We enter the world of suburban Sydney, both in the past and in the present. This world is beautifully realised with the authenticity of life in the Sixties enveloped in the languid heat of a long hot summer. Memories rise to the surface, and the characters come to life, both their good and bad sIdes slowly unveiling. I was drawn particularly to Mandy, a lively personality struggling with her marriage to Steve, who is stressed by his job in the police force. True relationships are revealed, coloured by the environment and the attitudes of society of the times. This is not a loud book, but a slow moving, absorbing drama. It is about silence: the silence of desires buried, of secrets repressed, and events unspoken but which will have repercussions down the years. – Margaret, VIC, 4 stars

The Silence is a confident literary novel with a 30-year-old mystery at its heart.     The story is about two dysfunctional families who live next to each other in Sydney during the 1960 and their secrets, lies and betrayals.     When Isla Green’s father is implicated in the cold case police investigation into the disappearance of their neighbour thirty years ago, she returns home to Sydney to support her parents. The dual timeframe and multiple character narratives kept the pages turning as Isla got sucked deeper and deeper into her father’s dark past.     The summer heat provided a stifling atmospheric setting as this is meaty ‘whydunnit’ built towards a depressing and tragic conclusion. A slow burn of a mystery played out against issues of addiction, inter-generational trauma and the heartbreaking realities of The Stolen Generation.     3.5 stars – Inez, NSW, 4 stars

Fantastic read, I couldn’t put it down. It would be a great choice for any book club. – Nicole, VIC, 5 stars

I found The Silence a book that kept me guessing to the end and it was hard to put down and not read in one sitting.  Covered very serious topics giving individual perspectives and the impact on them and the impact of choices that people make.  – Danielle, VIC, 4 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s a story of the devastating consequences of split decisions and the silences that follow. Deeply flawed characters intertwine and collide in raw and tragic circumstances. The setting feels intensely familiar; it could be the street you grew up on, your family, your neighbours. A wonderful first novel by Susan Allott. – Alexandra, NSW, 4 stars

Enjoyed this book immensely.  I was captivated from the first page.  A well written book that made mention of characters that I could understand and/or relate to, especially their livelihood and jobs. – Annette, NSW, 5 stars

Thanks very much for the opportunity to read and review The Silence. It had me hooked from the first few pages – I love a mystery and it kept me guessing until almost the end.    The silence of the title refers to several different storylines – the removal of Aboriginal children from their families and domestic violence within marriages. Also the difficulties faced by migrants adjusting to a new country and all that entails.   Add in an underlying thread of alcoholism and whether it is inherited or not.   Because of where I live I am well aware of the incredible distress still felt today by what is know as the Stolen Generation.   I found all the characters very believable and empathised with the difficulties they faced and the choices they were forced to make.    A thoroughly enjoyable book which I completely read in about three sessions. – Elizabeth, NSW, 5 stars

The story description for The Silence by Susan Allott immediately piqued my interest.  This book, whilst mainly focusing on the disappearance of Mandy and the mystery of who is responsible, touches on many difficult subjects.  It explores burdensome secrets, domestic abuse, alcoholism and toxic relationships.  It was brilliantly written and a thoroughly enjoyable read – I actually read it in one sitting as I was completely hooked. – Natalie, NSW, 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. While I am a bit younger than the protagonist, the setting conjures up images of 1970s Australian suburbia as I remember it. The mystery unfolds gradually and – gratifyingly – while I thought I had predicted the ending ahead of time, I was wrong. Allott captures the complexity of family dynamics and the loneliness of unhappy marriages well. The variance in the attitude of different characters towards the stealing of Aboriginal children, and the way the story of the Stolen Generations is woven into the narrative and the unfortunate resolution, were well-conceived and written. I would definitely recommend this to other readers (and already have)! – Yvonne, NSW, 4 stars

This book to a couple of chapters to get into but then – it was great!  What a wonderful debut novel.  A well researched story about a very dark part of Australia’s history but also issues that face so many families – alcoholism and family violence and how often they go hand in hand and destroy families.  Susan’s writing flows beautifully and the characters are familiar and believable.  I look forward to more of her books in the future.  – Nicole, VIC, 5 stars

This book to a couple of chapters to get into but then – it was great!  What a wonderful debut novel.  A well researched story about a very dark part of Australia’s history but also issues that face so many families – alcoholism and family violence and how often they go hand in hand and destroy families.  Susan’s writing flows beautifully and the characters are familiar and believable.  I look forward to more of her books in the future.  – Glenice, VIC, 5 stars

The Silence is a compelling and atmospheric novel that brilliantly captures the dynamics of two dysfunctional families in 1960s Australia. Weaving through the narrative is the appalling, government-sanctioned practice of removing Aboriginal children from their families. The shockwaves of decisions made and secrets kept reverberate through to the 1990s where the mystery of Mandy’s disappearance will finally be revealed. Highly recommended – I finished it in two nights! – Lisa, NSW, 5 stars

Glimpses of creative and unique writing draws in the reader to follow storyline to the end. A gentle change in stereotypes within the storyline in a refreshing change. I feel this author hasn’t revealed her true writing ability yet- the best is to come. – Heidi, NSW, 3 stars

I found The Silence by Susan Allott an engrossing novel about families, migration and secrets (silences).  Using two time frames, 1966/67 and 1997, and locations in Australia and the UK, we are not only drawn into the current explosive family crisis but are given an insight into what happened earlier and how this created the problem. Isla Green leaves London to support her father during the investigation but has flashbacks to her 1966/67 life in Sydney and temporary stay in Leeds.  Are her memories correct?  Why does she have a troubled relationship with her mother and brother?  Why did no-one report Mandy missing?  Until these questions are resolved Isla cannot return to her life in London.   i found the characters well developed and believable.  the plot from both time frames were relevant today.  The same issues are still trying to be addressed today, not much has changed from both the domestic and state point of view.  The fact that various characters have different viewpoints on the same situation adds to the realisation that we don’t know fully what is happening around us.  This encompasses family relationships, alcoholism, domestic violence, betrayal, corruption, infidelity, the stolen generation, shame, PTSD and murder. it is a great snapshot of life in australia and UK during these timeframes.  I thoroughly enjoyed this read and highly recommend it to those who enjoy family mysteries. – Annette, ACT, 4 stars

Although I loved this story, I was distracted by the chapters flicking backwards and forwards 30 years. Being set in Australia when I was a child really appealed to my understanding of the characters and hidden elements of the story. Family secrets, shameful behaviours and alcoholism were kept behind closed doors threatening to explode families.  I would highly recommend this story to readers who love a “warts and all” tale but perhaps read in long sittings so you can move more easily between past and present. The characters are raw, relatable and real. I am looking forward to more stories by this author. – Shelley, NSW, 4 stars

What a book!  It transported me back to suburbia in the 1960s, a very different Australia to the one we know today.  A time many Australians are ashamed of, for injustices conducted by those in charge.  A time when neighbours saw a lot, but remained silent for fear of getting involved.  We follow Isla Green battling her own demons, complex family relationships and unravelling the secrets buried by the neighbourhood and the past. You no sooner empathise with characters, then find yourself disliking them as each secret is unveiled.  This book keeps you guessing until the very end.  A wonderfully written book which makes you feel as though you are right there with the characters.  A brilliant debut novel! – Emma, QLD, 5 stars

A novel about how the secrets we keep never leave us no matter how hard we try to leave them behind. When Isla (living in London) gets a phone call from her father and returns to Australia, she finds herself questioning her memories of her childhood & her relationships with her family. Has she viewed some of them through rose coloured glasses and judged others unfairly? What happened to the couple who lived next door when she was a child? Is her father capable of murder? While battling demons of her own, she is desperate to find the truth about what happened 30 years ago in the quiet sea side street in Sydney where she grew up. Susan Allott develops complex characters who I found myself liking & disliking at various stages throughout the book. It begs the question, are people simply all good or all bad? – Karen, NSW, 4 stars

I really enjoyed this book – finished it in a day!  A great mystery book that touches on so many other important things in our country’s history – Amy, VIC, 4 stars

Isla has lived in London for ten years and is woken in the early hours by a phone call from her father. He is under suspicion of killing their neighbour Mandy who has been missing for 30 years. Isla returns to Australia to give some support to him  The story gives background to the two families’ life in 1967 and then in 1997.    Could Isla’s father really have killed Mandy.  As Joe was the last person to see Mandy alive, his wife Louisa has doubts of his innocence.  Isla would like to believe that her father was incapable of murder but as time goes on,  and his alcoholism and violence increase, Isla begins to have doubts.  Could Mandy still be alive after 30 years? – Vivien, ACT, 4 stars


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              Publisher details

              The Silence
              Susan Allott
              20 April, 2020


              It is 1997, and in a basement flat in Hackney Isla Green is awakened by a call in the middle of the night: her father, phoning from Sydney.It is 1997, and in a basement flat in Hackney Isla Green is awakened by a call in the middle of the night: her father, Joe, phoning from Sydney.30 years ago, in the suffocating heat of summer 1967, the Greens' next-door neighbour Mandy disappeared. Joe claims he thought she had gone to start a new life; but now Mandy's family is trying to reconnect, and there is no trace of her. Isla's father was allegedly the last person to see her alive, and he's under suspicion of murder.Back home in Sydney, Isla's search for the truth takes her back to 1967, when two couples lived side by side on a quiet street by the sea. Could her father be capable of doing something terrible? How much does her mother know? And is there another secret in this community, one which goes deeper into Australia's colonial past, which has held them in a conspiracy of silence?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.
              Susan Allott
              About the author

              Susan Allott

              Susan Allott is from the UK but spent part of her twenties in Australia, desperately homesick but trying to make Sydney her home. In 2016 she completed the Faber Academy course, during which she started writing this novel. She now lives in south London with her two children and her very Australian husband.

              Books by Susan Allott


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