Review: Silences of the Heart by Elizabeth Latham

Hi everyone, sorry that I have (once again) been very relapse in posting reviews. But now that my life is beginning to come together (or not, but that’s another issue), I feel confident in saying that I will have the time and energy to read and review books.  This year I am aiming for 60 books for my Goodreads challenge (last year I aimed for 75 and read 59) so please add me (Tamara) to follow my progress.

And now on to the first book review of the year:

What’s It About?

Claudia Carfax, a painter living in Vienna, receives and urgent cable asking her to return to the family home on Vancouver Island, where her elderly aunt is dying.  In a cellar under the house, she comes across a tin box full of faded letters from the early years of the century. Examining them, a compelling story begins to surface through the veil of years, as fresh as on the days these passionate words were set down.

(The above is the blurb on the back of the book)

My Thoughts:

I am always attracted to books written in either diary or letter form and this book ticked both of those boxes. Unfortunately that’s about the best thing I can say about it.  For me, the main problem was that the characters just fell flat.  There wasn’t anything to make me believe that these people were real, with thoughts and emotions and issues that I could connect to.  Without the characters, in a character-driven story (which this is as there is no plot so to speak of), the story becomes boring and an effort to read.

The book is split into three parts. Part 1 is diary entries from the character ‘Claudia’; Part 2 is letters between ascendants of Claudia’s dating 1909-1914 (the bulk of the book); and Part 3 is diary entries from Claudia again, after she has read the letters.  This book is based on letters that the author had found, written by her own ascendants – though it is impossible to tell which is fact and which is fiction. The letters outline what day-to-day life is like creating a new farm in Canada; but there is no emotion or feeling behind the words.  I know that real letters at that time would be written in this dry style as it was just not the done thing to discuss such personal matters (especially in England), but it makes for very onerous reading.  Secrets were unveiled but I, as a reader, didn’t really care as I had no connection to any of the characters.

The diary entries are, from my point of view, simply a structure in which to show the letters.  Claudia is writing in her diary what is happening in her life when she returns to Canada for the last few days of Fiona’s (the woman who brought her up) life.  As they are diary entries I would expect to read about the issues and conflicts that this event has on her, but again, I was out of luck.  In the diary entries in Part 3, Claudia does talk about how the letters have shown her who she is but there is no indication in Part 1 that she wasn’t sure of herself.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading fiction in any style. It would probably be of interest to anyone wishing to learn how to farm (in the early 1900’s) or if you have an interest in how letters were written during this period (but of course there is no sure way to know what is fact and what is fiction).

Overall rating: 2/5

Goodreads page

Buy on Amazon (UK)

Buy on Amazon (USA)