I stumbled across this book because of the cover. If it has a big house on the front it will draw my attention. To me I think there has to be one of those wonderful tales inside the covers about the house and/or the characters who reside there. I was intrigued. The premise sounded good and when I discovered it was only being published as a kindle book then I was even more intrigued. If any publisher reads these reviews what a mistake you should be publishing this book!
House of Silence tells the story of Gwen Rowland, orphaned and with no known living family by the age of 16. They all separately killed themselves through the excesses of drink, drugs and sex, Gwen is left to find her own way in life. Because of the damage (although Gwen does not see this immediately) that her young life has brought her she seeks trust and most of all a secure family structure if she enters a relationship. But then enter Alfie, who after a few months of a seemingly ordinary trustworthy relationship says that he will not be around at Christmas because he has to go home to Creak Hall as is expected of him every Christmas as the only son of five. Gwen desperately wants to go and experience a real family Christmas but Alfie is very reluctant to let her come. But why? Does he have something to hide?
Gwen wears Alfie down and they set off to Creak Hall in Norfolk where Gwen gets to meet Alfie’s sisters and his mother. Viv a lot older than Alfie has taken on the role of matriarch and keeper of the house, the garden as well as nursemaid to their mother who has a number of mental breakdowns and does not leave her room. Hattie, nearer Alfie in age is the most enthusiastic of the sisters, rather like a puppy she jumps at the chance to make a new friend in Gwen and when she finds out they have a shared love of quilting, Hattie seems to excite herself even more but is her mouth going to run away with her and let out something she shouldn’t?
Frances and Deb the other sisters have yet to arrive at Creak Hall as they have forged lives away from the cold, domineering Elizabethan house and their odd mother. Frances seems to run through husbands and lovers often and seeks solace in drink. Deb on the other hand has never got over the fact that her husband left her years ago and is going nowhere with her teaching career but she has dreams.
Linda Gillard sets the scene, and what you think is going to be a nice family Christmas with all the quirks of families and the traditions, board games and entertainment is turned on its head as the truth begins to seep out of the house, the residents and any silence about the past is broken but so quietly so you do not quite notice it is happening. Gwen senses something is wrong and a glance at a photograph changes her trust in the man who has brought her to this house. Bits of letters and broken sections of conversation result in Gwen discovering the truth but at the same time, the whole family are rocked by the actions that they took years ago and how it has affected them all without them even realising.
This is an excellent book; I read it within two days. It had me hooked from the beginning through all the twists and turns right to the end. I had worked out some bits but certainly not the reasoning behind any of it which made the book even more enjoyable. Gillard makes the characters credible to the point that you care about them and also not care about them because of their actions. The book has romance, bubbling away underneath, it deals with mental health issues so effectively and considerately that you actually do not realise until reflecting back on the book. As a lover of crafts, I could recognise the importance of the quilts and their purpose to Hattie once the peak of the novel is reached. Unpicking the past and stitching back together the future. Everyone in the story has something to think about from the consequences of their actions in the past but also the present.
This book has much to offer for fans of varying different genres. Give it a go I am so glad I did and I am now going to read some more about Linda Gillard and her novels.
First of all I have to say thank you to Simon at Stuck in a Book who brought this book to my attention. I had ironically downloaded the sample but had yet to give it a go. I did, was hooked and had to buy the whole book at 10pm on Saturday Night. I finished it at about 3amMonday Morning because I woke up and could not go back to sleep.
As mentioned in the review, posted above and on Amazon this book is only for ‘electronic’ release because she had been dropped by her publisher. Amazingly she will get more money for the kindle version that she would for a paperback version! That does not mean, I think everything should go the way of the kindle. No, I still love hold in my hand, turn the page books. But I also like the fact that I have discovered an author previously unknown to me in the new electronic format. So now I am going to go and find some good old fashioned paperbacks of hers! Please read Linda Gillard’s article here as it is a very interesting read. It is now obvious to me that publishers do not know their audiences well enough.
When discovering a new author, I like to do a bit of research (or being nosey depending on your view point). A History degree always comes in useful for research. I am obviously going to look out her other books so that is a given, but I was interested in her article on mental health issues. There is something of this in the book House of Silence and I could relate to the quilts and the quilt making of Hattie and obviously the breakdowns of her mother.
As someone who suffers from depression, I recognised elements in the book which I could relate to. I do not quilt, I have had some half hearted attempts in the past and I really love looking at them when I go to the Knitting and Stitching Show in October. But I do cross stitch and knit and generally make stuff because it is my own therapy and coping mechanism. It is all about looking after yourself. The sense of achievement no matter how small is very important to me, I can get quite pleased about cleaning and tidying out one kitchen drawer! Honestly I can. It is books like these which help me even more and I hope they may help other sufferers as well. You learn something new but sometimes you learn something about yourself, that maybe you did know but did not realise!
I digress somewhat, but if you get the chance to read this book do. It is I know going to be one of my favourite for 2011!