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Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
18
Silent Trauma
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on 15 March 2017
this book was ok just wasnt for me
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 5 July 2016
4.5 stars

Judith Barrow wrote this book to bring attention to the trauma sufferered by the victims of the drug Diethylstilboestrol (DES), given to women between the years 1949 and 1971. It was prescribed to prevent miscarriage, but had a devastating effect on the daughters - and possibly the granddaughters - of the women who took it, meaning that they had miscarriages, too, cancers of the reproductive organs usually associated with older women, and other problems to do with that part of the body. Unlike with Thalidomide there has been very little publicity about it, and the women who campaigned for what they had been through and why to be recognised, faced many brick walls.

I think writing a novel about it is such a good way of letting people know about the ongoing tragedy; I would not read an article about it, but I read this. Silent Trauma follows the lives of four women affected by the drug, and the friendship that forms between them: Meg, whose daughter Lisa took her own life; Rachel, whose husband left her because of the change in their marriage due to her depression caused by several miscarriages; Avril, a recluse whose life was shattered by cancer in her teens; and Jackie, caught in a difficult and violent relationship with a woman, herself a product of a difficult upbringing.

Aside from the main purpose of the book, I enjoyed reading about the four women very much; it's a well written, well planned story. The characterisation is terrific, and the situations so real. I've read Judith Barrow's nostalgia orientated, warts and all family sagas set in the north of England during the 40s, 50s and 60s, but actually liked this more. I read it in one sitting. Speaking as one who has never had the urge to have children I cannot imagine how it must feel to want them so badly that you feel like less than a woman if you can't reproduce, but all the emotions were painted so vividly that I felt everything the characters went through, and the situations were met with great understanding and sensitivity.

Jolly well done :)
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on 13 January 2017
This is such an unusual book. It combines a detailed account of one of the worst drugs scandals I've ever read about with a well-constructed novel about four fictional characters whose lives are deeply scarred by the drug. The drug in question is DES - Diethylstilboestrol - which was given out to thousands of pregnant women in the forties, fifties and sixties to help overcome the threat of miscarriage. It's success was negligible and the after effects on the children and grandchildren truly shocking. And particularly shocking because of the apparent silence relating to the scandal. So, this book is making a substantial contribution to awareness raising but in addition it's a powerful novel that has many more dimensions to it as well as the main theme. The characterisation is a real strength of the novel and the reader is soon deeply involved in the backstories and relationships of the four women. At times it's a stark and bleak novel but there is an overarching sense of resilience derived from standing together which prevents the novel from becoming depressing. I found that the book took a bit of getting into and I diverted to google Diethylstilboestrol to understand more that this was a fictionalised account of a genuine disaster. I'm so glad I persevered - this is one of the most powerful and thought-provoking novels I've read for a long time. Highly recommended.
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on 6 April 2013
I had not heard of DES, the drug at the heart of this novel, although in real life it devastated the lives not only of unborn babies but also of those babies' children. However, I was compelled to read it because it affected my generation, as did the better-known and equally disastrous drug thalidomide. My mother could easily have taken either of these drugs, so while reading of the protagonists' awful sufferings, I had at the back of my mind "There but for the grace of God go I."

It would be very easy for any story about such a terrible tragedy to fall into pathos, mawkishness or campaigning anger. Judith Barrow's novel is therefore all the stronger for its restraint and lack of sentimentality. While provoking a heart-rending account of the cruel havoc the drug has wreaked, the story impresses the reader with the huge dignity and bravery of those suffering from the drug's effects. The book also provides a convincing account of how powerful campaigns can grow from the tiniest of beginnings - and this book should be a significant part of the campaign for the victims of DES.

The only criticism I would make of it as a novel was the sparseness of the physical description of the various settings, characters' appearances etc. Although the characters are extremely well-drawn, their individual tragedies subtly unfolding as they get to know each other, I would have liked a little more colour and detail. For example, we are told a character gets into her Ford, but it would make a big difference whether it was a battered old rusting Cortina or a funky, bright pink Ka. It's only towards the end that we are told that one of the characters is extremely good-looking (according to another character at least). Although that might seem like a frivolous detail, it would have added another dimension to how this particular character has become who she now is. It's the sort of detail that might be added in at a late-stage edit, but I can completely understand why the author might have skipped that stage in her urgecy to get this story out there before readers and so to help the drug's victims.

To be honest, I'd hesitated before reading "Silent Trauma", wondering whether I'd find it too upsetting, and I nearly didn't make it past the devastating opening chapter, but ultimately it's life-affirming and uplifting - a brave, powerful and memorable book. I'm very glad I read it and I hope it makes a real difference to the victims of this terrible drug.
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on 19 August 2017
I had no clue that this tragedy had occurred.
My mother miscarried before having me in the 1960's. Possibly took this drug too.
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on 15 August 2017
interesting information but not well written.
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on 2 November 2016
There are two sides to this moving book. On one side there is the harrowing story of a drug, DES, which, like thalidomide, was given to pregnant women and caused devastating results. But unlike thalidomide, the damage – cancer, infertility and other conditions – wasn’t clearly visible from the start, and a campaign for recognition and compensation went (goes) ignored. Silent Trauma follows the stories of four women, Meg, Rachel, Avril and Jackie, who are all victims of the consequences of DES and who come together in a self-help campaign to publicise their cause. If only there could have been a triumphant ending.
The other side of Silent Trauma, is the simple story of four very different and wholly believable women, caught up in private agonies and desperate relationships, all drawn with immense sympathy. At least in this part of the story, there is a happy conclusion, because they have found one another.
A very strong and involving read.
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on 7 January 2016
I found Silent Trauma utterly absorbing and couldn't put it down until the end - though I guess it isn't really the end for the characters who are working so hard to raise awareness of the appalling effects of the drug DES or Stilboestrol. I hadn't heard of this a drug, prescribed to pregnant women to prevent miscarriages, though it failed to do so and led to the unborn children being severely damaged. A bit like thalidomide did but without the very obvious signs left by that drug.
It is a novel based on facts; the story of how a group of women, linked by DES and its consequences, come together to raise awareness of an issue which has been swept under the carpet by the pharmaceutical companies and medical profession. As with all Judith Barrow's books, the characters are vivid and real and the reader is drawn into their lives. Silent Trauma is a powerful read and I recommend both as an engaging page-turner and as a much needed exploraiton of an issue about which I'm guessing I'm not the only one who was ignorant.
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on 13 October 2016
I have been a while thinking about this review as the normal adjectives I would use in a review do not fit the book. This is an excellent read, and an enjoyable story. However, that feels that I am really betraying the book, which is about a very serious issue. Saying that I did enjoy the story line and I did want to finish the book because I was absorbed.. However, the message about DES is certainly not lost and remains with you well after the book has been finished. A credit to the author as this so easily could have been pushed aside at times with the plot line. It is very thought provoking. This is not a book I would have normally picked up and read. However I recommend all to do so, because I was wrong in avoiding this type of book. Certainly makes you think, especially as I am of an age that it could have been me! Well done Judith!
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on 1 March 2013
The suitably named and skillfully written `Silent Trauma' is based upon the lives of four women who all have something in common. They have been brought together by their own experiences and the desire to raise awareness of the shocking consequences of the anti miscarriage drug DES.
It gives the reader an understanding of the guilt experienced by mothers who took the drug and the devastating health problems and trauma suffered by their children.
I found the book interesting, educational and it took me on an emotional roller coaster. I became so engaged in the story that I found it hard to put down as I felt a real connection to the characters portrayed.
A brilliant read and one I would definitely recommend.
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