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Days in the History of Silence Paperback – 5 Dec 2013

3.8 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press (5 Dec. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590515951
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590515952
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.8 x 20.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 303,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Has a surprising luminosity... What is interesting about this novel is that the more you engage with it, the better it makes you feel... It is a minor gem: introspective, brooding and quietly mesmerising.' --We Love This Book

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By matigrebooks VINE VOICE on 9 Mar. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Took my time with this book and despite the pace it held me until the end. I didn't want this book to end. The narrator explores life, the past and the present through her own context and lens. Whilst we learn so much about Eva (the narrator) and her husband (Simon) that you could start to spot them next door or on the street, there is enough unsaid for you to fill in the gaps that are left. A wonderful, beautiful book that I will return to.
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By prisrob TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 7 Feb. 2014
Format: Audio Download
We all know what happens when we keep secrets, when we keep silent, when we don't allow the truth to enter our sphere and set us free.

Like strangers on a plane, Eva, opens her world to us. She is married to Simon, a physician, and she a teacher. Both retired now, and living a very quiet life. They are a middle class couple, living comfortably in Norway. They have three daughters, but really do not have a close connection. How very sad. Eva and Simon love each other, but decisions they both made earlier in their married lives have cost them a great deal. The pain that they experienced has not been released, it is pent up, and causing issues for both of them. Simon has become increasingly silent, was it depression that sent him into this whirlwind, and now some form of dementia has set in. Eva finds herself taking long walks, stopping at a grave site of a young man who seems to be alone. No one ever cares for the site or leaves flowers, so Eva starts to care for it. She walks by a church and meets the Priest. He offers her assistance or to come in at any time. Little by little she speaks, but not the big secrets she carries with her.

We hear about the girls, their lives as babies and an incident. Eva and Simon loved their girls, but they never talked about their secrets, nor opened up about their lives. Certainly the girls were aware of the reserve of their parents, but did they have any insight into the large parts of their parent's lives they did not know about? They urged their parents to hire someone to help them clean, they had such a big house, and but was too much for them. They hire Mariya, a woman from Latvia, and they become close. Mariya eventuality moves into their home, but she is fired, and the parents will not disclose the reason to their daughters.
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Format: Paperback
Breath-taking in its emotional impact, insightful in its depiction of the main character and themes, and completely honest, this remarkable book left me weeping in places, silently begging the main character not to make some of the choices that I knew she would inevitably make. Eva, an ordinary, elderly woman with a now-silent husband, tells her own story, with all the hesitations, flashbacks, regrets, and questions which are tormenting her now and which have confounded her husband. In creating Eva, Norwegian author Merethe Lindstrom has brought to life a vividly depicted character filled with flaws, prone to second-guessing, and sometimes overcome with regret for past mistakes, and she does this without any hints of authorial manipulation in Eva’s story, which feels as if it is emerging of its own will from Eva’s depths.

Eva, the mother of three daughters by her husband Simon, is also the mother of a son, whom she gave up for adoption when she was an unmarried teenager, and she often wonders about his fate. Eva has few friends, shunning intimacy, even with her own children, and though she eventually became a teacher of language and literature, she was constantly aware of being superfluous to the school’s success. Now retired, she admits that “I do not know if I miss the work, but I wish to be part of something, I always have the feeling of being left out.” As Eva introduces Simon, she notes that he started to become silent two years ago, and she is now forgetting the sound of his voice. He has begun to wander outside alone, and though she takes him to a daycare center two days a week, her daughters feel that he now needs full-time care.
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The book is good however, i'm never buying though BetterWorld books ever again. The book comes with barcodes and a stamp of the Dallas Public Library. I feel like i bought a stollen book! Terrible, seller choice.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x93eaf840) out of 5 stars 25 reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9355ec90) out of 5 stars The shield of silence 27 Aug. 2013
By TChris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Days in the History of Silence is an unflinching examination of a woman's colorless, regret-filled life, her adoption or acceptance of shared solitude as a shield against pain. As she tells her story, it becomes apparent that the shield is a poor barrier. Other choices might serve her better, but ingrained habits are difficult to unlearn.

Eva has retired from her job as a high school teacher of Norwegian. Her husband Simon is surrendering to a form of dementia characterized by a disturbing silence. "It is not the feeling that he is no longer there," Eva thinks. "It is the feeling that you are not either." Eva has always been afraid that Simon would one day disappear; now she wonders if this is Simon's way of doing just that. Years earlier, Simon suffered from depression, a byproduct of surviving the war as a child by hiding in a concealed room (a time when silence protected him from discovery) and of bearing the guilt of his survival when so many of his friends and family "were crossed out of history." Now he goes days before articulating a random word, as if he is challenging Eva to find its meaning, perhaps to explain to him the meaning of his life.

If Eva is not as deeply depressed as Simon was, she is at least full of woe. She tells us about unsettling childhood and marital experiences. She thinks about the son she gave away. She makes gloomy observations of the life that surrounds her. Although she believes herself to be different from her husband, the reader comes to question the accuracy of that belief. Eva thinks she talks "all the time," but as her daughter points out, she never reveals her thoughts. She might be loquacious but she is isolated, even from her children.

The novel's central conflict arises from Eva's need to decide whether to place Simon in a home for the elderly, to "give him away" as she gave away her son. Eva is clearly capable of acting as Simon's caretaker, but she thinks "our solidarity has something suspect about it now." As the novel unfolds, a secondary conflict develops as Eva tells us about Marija, the undocumented Latvian they hired to help with household chores, a woman whose companionship substituted for friendship in Eva's friendless life. The decision to fire Marija after three years of employment, and the anger it instilled in her three daughters, weighs heavily on Eva's mind. Eva refuses to explain the decision to her daughters, and while that refusal seems inexplicable to the reader, it is consistent with Eva's inability to reveal herself to them.

The reason for Marija's termination goes unexplained until near the novel's end. Given the buildup and the event's centrality to the story, Merethe Lindstrøm must have intended the explanation to have more force than it delivers. Still, this is a novel of striking images and metaphors, particularly Eva's memory of a young intruder who, despite Eva's perception of a threat, may have only been "seeking refuge" or "searching for someone, or something" -- just as Eva and Simon have spent (or wasted) their lives doing. Some moments in the story are exceptionally poignant (as when Eva checks her husband for a pulse even though she can see him breathing). Yet there is no balance here, no spark of happiness or hope to offset the unremitting melancholy, and while some lives are like that, reading about them can be an emotionally oppressive (albeit intellectually rewarding) chore. For that reason Days in the History of Silence is a novel I admire rather than love, but there is much here to admire.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94e0f5e8) out of 5 stars "No one knows who we are. No one except for me." 30 Mar. 2014
By Fairbanks Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Days In The History of Silence is a book about the spaces between people, the silences that grow with time and become insurmountable.

Eva and Simon have been married for several decades and Simon is now stricken with a form of demential that has, as its primary symptom, almost total silence. Simon was a physician and Eva a school teacher before they retired. Neither of them had many friends and they kept to themselves. They have three daughters, all grown, none of whom they are very close to. Helena, the daughter that is most prominent in the story, has been trying to get Eva to put Simon in an assisted living facility. Eva has all the papers to apply for Simon's admission but she has not filled them out despite Helena's urging.

Eva and Simon's lives are filled with secrets. Simon's childhood was spent in hiding during the second world war and he has told no one other than Eva what happened to him during that time. He has thought many times of sharing this history with his daughters but he has never gotten around to it. Eva often thinks about an 'episode' in her life when the children were very little and a stranger made his way into their home. She was terrified and fearful for their lives. The stranger even moved one of the children outside while Eva's back was turned. Their daughters know nothing about their lives.

At one point, they had a housekeeper named Marija, with whom they were very close. She even lived with them for a period of time. Then something appalling happened and they fired her. The reasons for her firing only become clear only towards the end of the book and, again, they choose not to share this information with their daughters.

This is a novel filled with metaphors and written in lovely, poetic language. I found the story compellingly tragic but it failed to move me very much. Eva and Simon are both so removed from their lives and themselves that I felt removed from them. I could appreciate the beauty of the writing but I felt distanced from it at the same time. Simon had a desire to share his past. His inability to do so when he was able made this book seem unrealized to its full potential.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x934b3990) out of 5 stars The sounds of silence 18 Mar. 2014
By Jill I. Shtulman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Right from the opening pages, it is evident that this is a riveting novel, one that will grab you by the lapels and keep you enthralled throughout its pages.

Eva, the narrator, relates a menacing tale about her encounter with an intruder while her daughters were still young (“I was the one who let him in.”) In retrospect, she says, “Later, I called it the episode. When I talked about it with other people…The episode is the anticipation of something more. But there was nothing more, he rang the doorbell that day, and after that he disappeared.”

The opening sets the stage for the episodic quality of this novel. Drama is always lurking beneath the surface – and sometimes rises to the surface with the clear ense that something bad is about to happen, but this isn’t a novel about action; it’s a novel about inaction.

Eva and her husband are an elderly Norwegian…and now he’s mute, a metaphor of the history of silence the two of them have shared. She muses, “Underneath everything, the house, the children, all the years of movement and unrest, there has been, this silence. That it has simply risen to the surface, pushed by external changes.”

Over and over, themes and motifs rise and fall again: both individual and societal retreats into unconscionable silence. The abandonment of those who deserve love and caring (whether it’s a child, a dog, or an entire people). The need to seek comfort and refuge and the failure of faith. Perhaps most of all, the search for an authentic self-narrative.

I thought this book was absolutely brilliant, beautifully atmospheric and crafted, insightfully focused on the repercussions of secret-keeping and missed connections, with a remote yet descriptive style that perfectly captures every scene. It is magnificently translated by Anne Bruce and a “must read” for those who love introspective literary fiction.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93841984) out of 5 stars A Family Of Secrets 7 Feb. 2014
By prisrob - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
We all know what happens when we keep secrets, when we keep silent, when we don't allow the truth to enter our sphere and set us free.

Like strangers on a plane, Eva, opens her world to us. She is married to Simon, a physician, and she a teacher. Both retired now, and living a very quiet life. They are a middle class couple, living comfortably in Norway. They have three daughters, but really do not have a close connection. How very sad. Eva and Simon love each other, but decisions they both made earlier in their married lives have cost them a great deal. The pain that they experienced has not been released, it is pent up, and causing issues for both of them. Simon has become increasingly silent, was it depression that sent him into this whirlwind, and now some form of dementia has set in. Eva finds herself taking long walks, stopping at a grave site of a young man who seems to be alone. No one ever cares for the site or leaves flowers, so Eva starts to care for it. She walks by a church and meets the Priest. He offers her assistance or to come in at any time. Little by little she speaks, but not the big secrets she carries with her.

We hear about the girls, their lives as babies and an incident. Eva and Simon loved their girls, but they never talked about their secrets, nor opened up about their lives. Certainly the girls were aware of the reserve of their parents, but did they have any insight into the large parts of their parent's lives they did not know about? They urged their parents to hire someone to help them clean, they had such a big house, and but was too much for them. They hire Mariya, a woman from Latvia, and they become close. Mariya eventuality moves into their home, but she is fired, and the parents will not disclose the reason to their daughters. What has caused this, why can't they talk to their children. And, yet, as we discover Eva and Simon can't really talk to each other. Silence has been the bulwark of their lives. Simon is alone in his silence and dementia, and Eva is alone in her life, silence abounds.

This is a beautifully written novel, short, sharp words in it's simplicity. The characters Eva and Simon come to life as we get to know a little about them. The story is told by Eva, she is telling us her secrets, and explaining her life with Simon, we are all she has.

Recommended. prisrob 02-07-14
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x934b3b94) out of 5 stars powerful character-driven Norwegian family drama 27 Aug. 2013
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Days In The History Of Silence
Merethe Lindstrøm
Other Press, Aug 27 2013, $14.95
ISBN: 9781590515952

Eva the schoolteacher mother of three small children (Kirsten, Greta and Helena) let the intruder in by opening the door to his ringing the bell. Frightened by her blunder she gave him money and he left. Years have passed since the Event and the kids are adults while Eva and her physician husband Simon grow old together.

However, her fear over the last few months is that Simon has over time disengaged himself from her as he slowly stopped speaking until now he is totally silent. She looks back at other key incidents like the hiring and firing of extremely tall Marija as their housekeeper, Simon's childhood hiding along with family from the Nazis, and her other offspring a son she gave up for adoption while concealing his existence. Eva ponders whether these ghosts or others led to Simon becoming mute or does he suffer from dementia. Increasingly Eva feels isolated from her long time mate as she is no longer part of him and inversely he is detached from her; retired from teaching and the kids gone, she is alone even with Simon silently with her.

This is a powerful character-driven Norwegian family drama told from the viewpoint of beleaguered Eva the elderly caretaker of her silent husband. Readers will ponder the cause of Simon's slow descent into total silence as first he used a few words like thank you before going absolute mute. Merethe Lindstrøm provides a strong philosophical tale as she makes a profound argument that the past never fully vanishes since the ghosts of yesteryear haunt the present.

Harriet Klausner
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