The Rest is Silence- Carla Guefenbein

books, Carla Guefenbein, The Rest is Silence

Synopsis (from amazon)

As the adults sit down to gossip over a long wedding lunch and the rest of the children rush off to play, a young boy slips out of sight beneath the table. At twelve years old, Tommy’s weak heart prevents him from joining his cousins’ games, so he sets his MP3 player to record the voices chattering above him. But then the conversation turns to his mother’s death and he overhears something he was never meant to know: that she didn’t die of an illness, but suicide.Confused and hurt, Tommy keeps what he has learned to himself and begins his own secret investigation into what really happened. At the same time, his father and step-mother have problems of their own to contend with. Juan is racked by private grief and guilt after the death of one of his patients (a boy of his son’s age), and Alma, his second wife, senses an increasing distance in their marriage and gradually finds herself drawn back towards an old flame. As all three withdraw into their own worlds, leaving more and more unsaid between them, their family story moves inexorably, affectingly towards its devastating conclusion.


This was the first book I read after I finished Life After Life. I really didn’t want to read anything, I more or less had to force myself to start something. I was sure that once I’d actually got into a book it would be alright, but starting was a difficult step. Maybe my view of The Rest is Silence suffered because of this, I couldn’t help comparing it to Life After Life- at least to a point. And whilst I enjoyed it well enough I didn’t find anything special in it either. Maybe I should have chosen something a little more easy going after Life After Life?

It wasn’t really what I expected. I expected the discovery of suicide to be an important plot point which sustained throughout the story. In fact it was more of a spark that starts a fire. It was referred back to, but it wasn’t as much of a key point as I had anticipated, and actually the story may have worked without it (although it would have suffered somewhat if it was taken out).

The story switched through different voices. Tommy, the young boy, Alma, his stepmother, and Jaun his Father. The time also jumped around a little, especially in Alma’s chapters. This was most obvious at the beginning of the story, and it made things a little confusing, and it did make it harder to get into the book.

There were, in effect 3 (or maybe 4) stories running through the novel, one for each character, but another where all the stories interlinked. It was interesting to see the different sides of a story, and the ways the stories deviated showed the fractures in the family.

I enjoyed Alma’s story best, and I think I liked her best too. There was something quite strong about her, but she almost wanted too much control over her life, she didn’t ever seem to just let things happen. Possibly I shouldn’t have liked her, but there was something very easy to like about her. I think part of it was that Juan was shown as having quite a hard exterior, and although we saw his softer side he never seemed to understand that sometimes you have to show you’re soft side and at others it’s better to remain strong. We saw the contrast between the ways he and Alma interacted with people, and Alma came off better.

Tommy’s story should have been the most interesting, but his voice didn’t really work for me. Sometimes it felt like a child’s voice, but most of the time it was a bit too adult, without and common sense.


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Paperback (£8.31)

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Filed under Fiction review, Literary

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