Friday, May 20, 2011

The Silent Land review

Jake and Zoe are celebrating their 10-year marriage with a skiing holiday in the Pyrenees.

They're out on the slopes when an avalanche strikes, burying them both in the snow.

They dig out, and head back to their hotel in the village, only to find it completely abandoned. They're freaked out at first, naturally, especially because they don't seem to be able to leave the village. Every time they try, they end up back at the hotel.

Jake and Zoe come to the same revelation at different times _ that they died in the avalanche, and are in some kind of afterlife.

I love Graham Joyce. I possibly mentioned this last year when I read Memoirs of a Master Forger, but I love  him. He writes these amazing, short novels that are just. Incredible reads. He packs so much in and nothing is wasted.

The Silent Land is no exception. Jake and Zoe's initial puzzlement over their situation, and their inevitable acceptance of the inevitable unfolds in such a way that you feel like you're right there along with them. The pacing is perfect and the revelations, while not surprising for readers I don't think, evolve naturally for Jake and Zoe. Joyce doesn't assume he's springing any surprises on us, but at the same time, when Jake and Zoe reach the same conclusions, you feel deeply for them.

They're deeply flawed, deeply human, and very much in love.

Jake and Zoe find themselves reflecting on the nature of love and of loss, as they both recall the loss of their respective fathers, and how very different the afterlife is.


However, and perhaps most heartbreakingly, it turns out that only one of them is actually dead ...

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