The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton is a perfect read for the upcoming wintry nights. This icy, unique and exquisite thriller will have you biting your nails until the very last page – trust me, you won’t read anything like it.
Yasmin has flown from the UK to Alaska to give her husband, Matt, (a wild-life documentary-maker) an ultimatum. After spending months in the Arctic, Yasmin thinks he has fallen into a relationship with an Inupiaq woman: “I kissed her because I missed you.”
Yasmin has brought their daughter, Ruby, who is 10 years old and completely deaf. When they arrive, the police tell them that the village of Anaktue – where Matt was living – had been burned down. The entire population, plus one Caucasian, is dead. Matt is gone. But Yasmin doesn’t believe it.
Thus begins a breathtaking journey of a desperate mother and her vulnerable child, who drive further and further north of the Arctic Circle; withstanding temperatures of -55 C, treacherous snow storms and the constant night sky of the Alaskan Winter, all in the hopes of finding Matt and the truth behind the Anaktue fire.
“She’d seen cold as a predator, made of the dark as if it was alive. But she felt it now as vastly, cruelly impersonal; a frozen darkness absorbing you into itself.”
Lupton tells her tale from Yasmin’s perspective in third person, then from Ruby’s first person narrative and alternates between the two. It’s a brave choice, as it could potentially be off-putting, but because of the nature of the characters, this works extremely well. It allows us to perceive Ruby as more than her ‘deafness’ but also helps us witness the layering of how relationships are built and splintered through memory and grief.
Ruby is entirely convincing but sometimes her childlike voice is almost too immature, which can slightly hectoring, especially with her “SUPER-COOLIO-AWESOME-SAUCE-BEAUTIFUL” catchphrase. Although once this dies down, you really do believe that Ruby is an intelligent child with a beautiful soul. Ruby also tweets her own descriptions of words, giving the reader another intriguing insight into her silent world:
“EXCITEMENT: Tastes like space dust & popping bubblegum; feels like the thud-bump of a plane landing; looks like the big furry hood of Dad’s Inupiaq parka”
However, it is the tundra that acts as a stunning metaphor for grief and faith, that is the success of this novel. There are only so many ways the cold can be described, but Lupton masterfully creates a new way to send shivers into the core of her readers:
“The cold was shocking in its violence. She’d thought the colour of cold was white, like snow, or blue perhaps, like on a cold tap, but cold like this was conceived in a place without daylight and was black, the absence of all light and colour.”
The novel pulls you deep into its glacial world and it will not let you go until the very last sentence. This thriller will have you jittering all the way through; you’ll be guessing and unsuccessfully predicting plot twists as the truth slowly unravels. The Quality of Silence is a beautifully written page-turner.
Plus it’s perfect with a cosy blanket and a hot chocolate – what more do you need?
Photo via Tiina Törmänen.
You can buy The Quality of Silence on Amazon.
[Disclaimer: the grammar in the quotes may differ to other versions as I was reading from a proof copy. Any quotes are copyright of Rosamund Lupton].