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A History of Silence: A Family Memoir Paperback – 11 Sep 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (11 Sept. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848549059
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848549050
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 642,751 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

One of the bravest and best-written memoirs I have read (Telegraph Books of the Year)

His book is a knockout, a fresh immaculately paced study of the process by which old information becomes new, and one of the bravest and best-written memoirs I have read (Daily Telegraph)

Throughout this brilliant memoir, the ultimate impact of the book lies with how openly and humanely Jones responds, as an author and a son, to a truer picture of his family (Australian Book Review)

Poetically observed detail and an affecting evocation of the past will reward readers interested in the way our history can shape us (Books + Publishing)

Lloyd is a masterful writer and his exquisite prose renders a city in much the same manner as a photographer, capturing the disaster before him in all its fine, grainy detail . . . A History of Silence is a unique and mesmerising book (Big Issue)

A History of Silence is as . . . wilful and compelling as his fiction (Canberra Times)

A pleasurable experience, gently paced and studded with lovely phrasing (Weekend Australian)

Very moving portrayal of a disquieting family mystery (Weekend Herald)

Eloquently portrayed (Sunday Times)

A History of Silence is ravishing, a work that takes the 2011 Christchurch earthquake as its touchstone and turns into an almost Joycean ramble through his memories of his family. It is often beautifully, painfully frank about how little he knew his late parents, as he obliquely traces their lives back to the start of the 20th century, sleuthing about to find the painful secrets in his mum's past. It's a work about the precariousness of our domestic realities, a cryptic true-life detective story (Metro)

Book Description

A moving memoir about family from Man Booker shortlisted author Lloyd Jones.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kiwiflora on 7 Nov. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I had the most peculiar reaction to reading this memoir by the very highly regarded Lloyd Jones. For the first five years of my life I lived 1.7kms in one direction from where the author was living out his childhood, and for the next 15 years I lived 1.7kms in the other direction. Our paths never crossed, (he is a few years older), but everything he writes about the place of Lower Hutt, and the sense of place is very strong in this book, had a startling ring of truth about it. From Stellin Street where I learnt to drive, to his days at the intermediate school, to the shop in the High St his school uniform was bought at, to his descriptions of Petone, the Hutt River bed, Eastbourne and the bays - I could see it all so clearly and in his retelling of his memory, he made me remember too. Just as wonderful was the quite amazing thought that just up the road a writer of such genius was slowly incubating!

Every family has its secrets, its stories that change over the years to accommodate new narrators and mores of the time, its black sheep, and often full truths never come out because they are too painful, considered too shameful, or quite simply just too hard to deal with. Lloyd Jones' parents, Joyce and Lew, were both extensively scarred by the circumstances of their childhoods, carrying their burdens into their marriage and the parenting of their five children, of whom Lloyd was the youngest by some ten years.

Lloyd grows up in a household of silence, where he and his siblings know very little about their parents' early lives. All they really know is that there was a fair bit of sadness. There is a complete lack of family stories, no photos on the walls, what he calls 'wilful forgetting'.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When Lloyd Jones goes to Christchurch in the aftermath of the big earthquake in 2011, seeing the cracks, fissures and wrecked foundations sets him thinking about his own familial ones. The journey to uncover the truths behind the 'silence' in his family takes him to places where he and some of his ancestors had lived. The trip to Wales, once home of his unknown grandfather is mostly unproductive, though it does provide space to think and ruminate on his family history, and the lack of it.
The centre of interest is the mystery behind his mother driving with him as a boy to sit in silence outside a particular house, watching out for a woman called Maud. This Maud, ("that old ratbag") was his mother's mother who had given her away at the age of four. Lloyd never meets her.
I found that my engagement with this memoir waxed and waned. The analogy of earthquake and personal familial turbulence did not grip me all the time. His narrative shifts between the earthquake metaphors, childhood memories, literary allusions, concepts of silence, various conjectures and accounts of his quest into uncovering the past;
"Of course the earthquake struck when and where it did, and to the naked eye of course the pattern of bad luck would seem random, unless of course you knew about the old city maps indicating subterranean waterways, and of course I would find myself born into a world of silence because that is precisely what the shamed bestows upon the progeny - a wilful forgetting."

I found it was worth reading through to his eventual discoveries (via a folder in the national archives) about Maud's plight and the reasons for her giving her daughter away. It leads him to re-evaluate what he knows and to make new links. The human story is moving, I found the art of the telling of this one frustrating and engaging in turn.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sizemore on 23 July 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bought this to read as have recently been to Christchurch and was appalled at how much still needs to be done .

Beautifully written book ,intriguing story reminds me somewhat of the books of Janet Frame, very evocative of the New Zealand countrysideand peoplesomehow countryside is not quite the correct word to describe the scenery of that amazing but altered land.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Catwoman on 12 Aug. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A verygood read and a well written, interesting and moving personal history. The Christchurch earthquake observations were an interesting device to help interpret the past, however at times the analogy felt stretched.
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