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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant, eloquent and, yet again, marvellous writing.
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...
Published 9 months ago by Kiwiflora

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3.0 out of 5 stars In quest of secrets behind the silence.
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...
Published 3 months ago by Sabina


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant, eloquent and, yet again, marvellous writing., 7 Nov 2013
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'. Because he has nothing to compare this with, he grows up thinking nothing much about this lack, and is puzzled only momentarily when he goes driving, from time to time, with his mother to a house that they sit outside of for a while and then drive away again. His siblings are adults long before he is, and so he lives alone in the house with his parents, about whom he knows very little. One Christmas his older sister produces the results of her own research into their parents, a myriad mix of birth, death and marriage certificates which doesn't really answer any questions and leads to a whole lot more.

The devastating Christchurch earthquake of February 2011, was the catalyst Lloyd Jones needed to kick start his search for where he came from and what made him. Throughout the book, Jones uses Christchurch repairing itself and rebuilding its foundations as an analogy for him finding his own base and putting the pieces of his family puzzle into place. The narrative takes the reader from Christchurch to Lower Hutt, as far away as Wales, Wairarapa, the backblocks of North Canterbury, Wellington, backwards and forwards, to and fro, weaving and threading the story of a family through these places.

It is very moving to read such a personal account of a family's story, or more to the point the stories of Joyce and Lew. This memoir reads more as a tribute to the parents, and Lloyd himself finally seems to find out from whom he has inherited aspects of his own self and the influences that have shaped him. This is writing written with love and longing, and all the more poignant for that. The story teller in the author comes shining through as he expands on the lives of the people he is writing about, as they react to the events taking place around them. There are some threads I just could not figure out the relevance of - the boxing bout between Bob Fitzsimmons and Gentleman Jim Corbett springs to mind. But boxing was a big thing in the house he grew up in. Maybe I was just too tired to fully comprehend the significance. Never mind, such a tiny criticism, it barely matters.

This is a book I will treasure, not just because of the eloquent writing, but because he has given honour and integrity to the lives of two people who were unable to really find it for themselves during their own lifetimes. Read or watch the interview in the link below - well worth the time taken.
[...]
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5.0 out of 5 stars Breaking the Silence..., 12 Aug 2014
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This review is from: A History of Silence (Hardcover)
I have read all of Lloyd Jones's books and he is a very fine author. The writing in this book is as lovely as ever, the usually hypnotic flow his work carries us along in is, however, slightly diverted here and there. I think this perhaps highlights the tensions between life writing and fiction and the difficulties of crafting a work of art created by close, personal involvement.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, 23 July 2014
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This review is from: A History of Silence (Hardcover)
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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3.0 out of 5 stars In quest of secrets behind the silence., 26 April 2014
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Sabina (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A History of Silence (Paperback)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars What lies beneath, 12 Aug 2014
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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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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A timeless story, 30 April 2014
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This is a thought provoking essay. It will hold resonance with many, particularly if you are from New Zealand. Memories!
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A History of Silence
A History of Silence by Lloyd Jones (Paperback - 15 April 2014)
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