Skip to main content

House of Silence by Linda Gillard

I've been a fan of Linda Gillard's books ever since I read Star Gazing and Emotional Geology last year. I will never understand why her books aren't more available here in the States (and just in general), and I love talking them up so that more readers can find and enjoy them just as I do. So when Linda alerted me to the imminent publication of House of Silence, I knew I would have to get my hands on it. It sounded deliciously fun. The story of this book's publication is very interesting indeed. Linda's been trying to get it published for more than three years, but publishers seemed reluctant to attempt to market this cross-genre novel. Linda describes it as Cold Comfort Farm meets Atonement. And, of course, I'm sitting here thinking to myself, who in their right mind wouldn't want to read that book? Sometimes the publishing process mystifies me. So finally Linda decided to publish the book herself as an e-book. I applaud the move, and I was lucky enough to receive a copy for review.
My friends describe me as frighteningly sensible, not at all the sort of woman who would fall for an actor. And his home. And his family.
Gwen Rowland is precisely that--frighteningly sensible--though she has shockingly good reason to be. Raised (and I use the term incredibly loosely) by the unholy triumvirate of her drug addict mother, her nymphomaniac uncle, and her alcoholic aunt, Gwen's life has been one long exercise in pure anxiety, solitude, and longing for someone--anyone--she can trust. Orphaned and alone by the age of sixteen, she's since grown up and made a life for herself as a costume mistress. One day, while working on set for a BBC period drama, she meets the charming and offbeat Alfie Donovan, an actor playing a supporting role in the production. They strike up a friendship, which eventually leads to romance, and by the time Christmas rolls around Gwen feels it only natural Alfie might invite her to his home for Christmas. Seeing as she has no family to speak of. The usually composed and dapper Alfie is oddly reluctant, but he eventually agrees, and the two set off for his family manor in Norfolk. Though Alfie has prepped her for the eccentricities of his four sisters and mother, the reality is much more than Gwen expected. And soon she finds herself entangled in the unfolding drama surrounding the hapless and disturbing inhabitants of the Creake Hall.

What an absorbing read House of Silence is. I will admit to a slight case of nerves as I sat down to read Linda Gillard's fourth novel. I had loved Emotional Geology so much, and I suppose I was somewhat worried about the self-publishing aspect, etc. But my mind was immediately set at ease as I found myself intensely fond of the characters right off the bat. I chuckled aloud at least a handful of times within the first few pages, and the writing was decidedly assured and the pacing even and extremely smooth. I loved the setup. Gwen (short for Guinevere, much to her distress), is a wonderfully sympathetic character, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her work her way into the hearts and lives of Alfie's family. A favorite passage early on:
We were kindred spirits in a way. Detached, self-centred, yet both obsessed with the past. Our past. The difference was, I had no family and Alfie did. He had a family-- a large one --but mostly he behaved as if he didn't, as if he wanted no part of them, however much they might want a piece of him.

As a lonely child, then a solitary adolescent, I used to fantasise about having a family--a proper family, teeming with rowdy siblings, jolly aunts and uncles and of course doting parents. Alfie had that. But I suspect his fantasy was that they all died, leaving him in peace as sole owner of Creake Hall.

It was a macabre joke we shared that he lived on grim expectations. I used to chide him for his callousness and he would get angry, which was unlike him. He'd say, 'You have no bloody idea, Gwen! You don't know how much they expect of me.'

And it was true. I had absolutely no idea.
The comparison to Cold Comfort Farm and, I think, to Rebecca is very apt. I was amused, touched, and effectively creeped out in turns. And I had a very good time attempting to decipher the mystery, to figure out just exactly what dark secret lay lurking under the quirky surface. The answer, by the way, doesn't disappoint. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the touch of romance in this book. I've loved that aspect of Ms. Gillard's previous books, and she comes through once again here in an extremely moving, tasteful, and unexpected way. The elusive and so often painful threads of our lives--happiness, family, grief, most of all, perhaps, forgiveness, as well as the daily struggle to hold them all together within one's consciousness--are at the heart of this engaging story. House of Silence is a perfect choice for a rainy day or an evening in front of the fireplace. It has a little bit of everything and I definitely recommend it.


Linkage
The Book Jotter Review
Cornflower Books Review
I Prefer Reading Review

Comments

  1. oooh! I was supposed to have read Cold Comfort Farm for an english class but ended up watching the movie with my cousins. To this day we are always quoting "I saw something nasty in the woodshed"..."yes darling, but did it see you?" Hilarious! This is a very intriguing book and when I heard BBC period drama I IMMEDIATELY thought of Richard Armitage. I must read this! Thank you for the referral. It has been bought on Amazon already!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the heads up about this one! It sounds great and hopefully the blog love will help gain it some readers and fans!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is a great review and sounds very interesting. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I loved Cold Comfort Farm so any book that is even obliquely like it intrigues me. I might have to look into this one.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks, Angie, for a great review. :-) HOUSE OF SILENCE is already selling well in the UK and I know your review will boost sales in the US. Without a publicity dept behind me I'm very much dependent on bloggers and book forums for spreading the word. I'm just so thrilled that my faith in the book was actually justified. Readers do seem to be enjoying it!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh my this looks good. Thanks so much for tempting me with this one.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous1:11 PM

    This sounds so good. I can't read e-books so I'll have to go back and reread your review for Emotional Geology. I'd like to read something by this author.

    Hope you're well!

    KarenS

    ReplyDelete
  8. I commented on this post from my phone last night but apparently it didn't show up. :(

    I'm in the middle of this now and am enjoying it. I love Linda Gillard, loved Atonement and found Cold Comfort Farm to be hilarious so I haven't been worried.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous, if you can face reading on a PC screen you can download for free Kindle for PC & Mac, also iPhone, iPad, Android & Blackberry.

    Glad you're enjoying it, Holly!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I wanted to post my review of this one before reading yours, but now that it's done, I can say yes! to everything you said. It really was wonderful. And I am so, so thankful to you for bringing Linda's work to my attention way back when with Emotional Geology!

    ReplyDelete
  11. the book cover is really captivating. Thanks for this wonderful review!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Angie's Best Books of 2016

Let's just lay our cards on the table, shall we, and agree that, on the whole, 2016 was an abysmal year.
And I'd just like to personally invite it not to let the door hit it on the way out.
This is me being as charitable as I can possibly be at this point. 
That said, I want to send a glorious shout out to the wonderful books that have come out this past year, and to all the authors (and readers) who have not given in to the anxiety, depression, anger, and fear that I know so many of us have felt throughout the past twelve months (or more). It is the last day of the year, and I have poured all of my gratitude (and hope for a better one to come) into my annual list of my favorite reads of the year. Just 17 this year. Fewer than the past few years, which indicates a healthy dose of necessary rereading in this year that has been what it was, as well as the fact that I just didn't get to as many new releases.


(in the order in which I read them)
The Thirteenth Earlby Evelyn Pry…

My Year of Georgette Heyer | Book the First: The Convenient Marriage

This is not a drill. I repeat, THIS IS NOT A DRILL. I believe I am, in fact, upon the brink of accomplishing something that I have been meaning to do for years. I want you all to be the first to know that I just read my first very Georgette Heyer. That's right. I actually did it. After years of promising myself and countless others (many of you) that I would do it, I finally managed it! And I can tell that I'm about to dive headlong into a full-fledged binge.

After consulting all of your past comments on which Heyers are your favorites and why (and after some serious counsel from Beth and a well-timed trip to our local Barnes & Noble), I chose to start with The Convenient Marriage. I had no idea it would turn out to contain, without question, one of my favorite proposal scenes ever. The kind of proposal scene that makes you feel like nothing could ever go wrong after it. It takes place very early on, and it made me laugh and sigh repeatedly with delight. I know I will be …

Review | Hunted by Meagan Spooner

I'm just going to start off by saying I cannot stop thinking about this book. I finished it weeks ago, but this lovely Beauty and the Beast adaptation will not leave my mind. This is the first book I've really read by Meagan Spooner. I gave These Broken Stars a bit of a go awhile back, but we sort of drifted apart halfway through. Not the case here. The gorgeous cover caught my eye and the early glowing reviews reinforced my conviction. Having finished it, I immediately ran out and purchased copies for a number of the relevant readers in my life. And despite having pushed on and read several books since, Huntedis the one I find my mind and heart returning to over and over again.

Yeva holds a lot of things in. She loves her family—her father, her sisters—and so she sits obediently in the baronessa's chambers. She pretends to make small talk and embroider bits of cloth with the other ladies. She smiles politely at the young man who is said to be courting her (and doesn'…