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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
The Silent Land
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on 30 March 2013
The Silent Land gets a straight up three for the premise and the premise alone.

Having thought about it, this would have been much better served as a short story. As it was there was simply too much padding throughout and pages and pages of the main characters performing the most mundane of tasks, which were in no shape or form even necessary to the plot.

Joyce also seemed to have problems with dialogue, it was way too choppy; alternating between formal and informal with no real consistency.

There also wasn't a lot to the central characters themselves - they read like ciphers with no real personality coming through at all. In fact the only two memorable characters in the whole book were featured in flashbacks. Jake's dad story was especially moving.

However, what I really disliked about the book was the sex scenes. I'm far from a prude, but they were very awkwardly written, out of place, and felt more like an adolescent teenage boy fantasy than anything else.

Thinking about it more, The Silent Land had the same issues that I had with The Tooth Fairy; there are some wonderfully crafted scenes, complete with an sublimely eerie atmosphere - but they aren't linked together very well, or just fizzle out with no real outcome.

It also didn't help that I worked out what was actually happening very early on.

I did like it. It just could have been so very much more.
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on 15 October 2017
Hauntingly brllliant ghost story that is still on my mind even now, a couple of weeks after reading it. Very gently paced, very atmospheric, the journey Joyce takes you on is one you won't forget, right up to the bittersweet ending.
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Orion Books/Gollancz have fashioned a delightfully tactile, attractive and pleasurable reading experience with their almost retro, yet eco-friendly, hardback printing of `The Silent Land'. The way the satiny smooth cover sits comfortably in the hand will beat an electronic version into a cocked hat. The silky feel of the outer binding, printed in an evocative subtle glacial blue/white with the two silhouetted, emerging, white ski-ers is especially appropriate. Seen in a bookshop it would surely tempt you to pick it up.

The story too is blanketed and dreamy, like the snowstorm, with flurries of fresh flakes, terror of being lost in the avalanche, fear of heavy falls to come; the cut off mood of a small Pyrenean resort village is beautifully created. I imagine `The Silent Land' will give even more pleasure to those who have been on a ski ing holiday - I found it truly thrilling without that familiarity.

Zoe and Jake are out early, alone on the mountain, when Jake does something impulsive. What follows can only end in one way, and you think you know how, but there are surprises, adventures and marvellous sections of clever, thoughtful, haunting writing before the questions are answered. Dipping in an out of what makes sense and what doesn't, fantasy and everyday, is done with an original and masterly touch. Graham Joyce plays with his readers yet doesn't waste time. There is a sparklingly clever gem inserted that stayed with me - "Laisser sonner"...

However and there is a tiny `but', I was with Jake's father Peter on this; I didn't like the slick use of 'bad' language. Something about the pristine beauty and quiet atmosphere when made its first appearance, on page two, a bit extra shocking, wrong. I know some would expected in the circumstances but the use of what is perhaps now acceptable modern idiom in conversation jarred more than usual and felt unsuitable. I'm just giving a gentle warning should you be thinking of it for a maiden aunt! It made me like the couple less, which was a shame, as you need to be deep into their situation for the book to work its undoubted magic. They are a believable pair and their relationship is laid open in a credible way - we feel we know them and others like them already. Yet, as in a snowfield, there are unexpected depths.

Read in one long session it will stick in my mind for years. I can't wait to lend my lovely copy and recommend it with confidence. If you enjoyed it too you might like The Separation which is along a similar track - sort of fantasy/sci fi..
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on 29 November 2010
The Silent Land
Zoe and Jake are on a skiing holiday and survive an avalanche whilst out on the slopes. When they emerge from the snow, the resort is completely deserted....
I started reading The Silent Land just as the first thick blanket of snow fell here which felt weirdly like the story was seeping into real life! But the writing is so good that even if it had been the middle of summer, the characters and story would have been alive and kicking in between reads.
I felt the narrative was unique in that it appeared to have relentless pace and tension, yet the story alternated between slow swathes of time where Zoe and Jake seemed to have all the time in the world to enjoy their surroundings to sudden key strange happenings and shifts in their environment and concepts of reality and time. Throughout it all Joyce's enviable storytelling skills somehow make it all so believable.
His language is poetic and wonderfully descriptive, such that although I have never been skiing, I could imagine perfectly the beauty and appeal of the setting. His portrayal of Zoe and Jake's love is so touching and effective, without ever becoming sentimental.
The Silent Land is above love, loss and the way we choose to live our lives. Joyce manages to touch the reader on a level where you start to think about your own life and values. The story and characters stay firmly in the reader's mind after it is finished, leaving you to interpret and mull over the gripping final scenes repeatedly. I really did not want it to get to the final page and would thoroughly recommend the book without reservation.
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on 27 April 2012
It's quite hard to explain what this book is about. It opens with a young married couple, Zoe and Jake, out skiing in the early morning. They are anticipating enjoying the peace and beautiful scenery before the rest of the resort empties onto the slopes for the day - but instead end up getting swept up in an avalanche...

When she comes to, Zoe manages to fight her way out from under the snow and is reunited with Jake, and the two stumble back down to the village to get help and warn the other skiiers. But when they reach their hotel - the closest to the slopes - there is no one there, and it appears that everyone has left in quite a hurry. Figuring that perhaps the hotel has been evacuated, they walk into town, only to find it likewise deserted. At first the couple find this situation quite a romantic novelty, cooking dinner in the hotel kitchen and enjoying the spa and the empty slopes, but then strange things start to happen. Zoe begins to hallucinate, time seems to speed up and slow down at will, and when they try to leave the village, no matter what they do the roads always bring them back to where they started. Has the town really been evacuated? Or has everyone died in the avalanche? Have THEY died in the avalanche? And why does it feel like the village itself is trying to manipulate them in some way?

It's a fascinating novel, which really keeps you puzzling and trying to figure out exactly what is going on. I started to work it all out as the chapters flew by, but even so I wasn't quite sure until all the pieces came together at the end. Occasionally it got a bit TOO puzzling, and I think I missed a step on a couple of occasions, but that might have been me rather than the book. I did find that as the situation got more sinister, things started to get a little bit repetitive and once or twice I found myself getting frustrated as a result. The sex scenes were horrendously clinical, I have to say, and I found some of the coarser moments of dialogue between the couple very jarring, and completely at odds with the thoughtful, almost poetic nature of the themes and setting. But when push came to shove, it WAS an interesting premise, with some beautifully surreal moments, some genuinely frightening scenes, and a moving message about the nature of life and the power of love which had me tearing up nicely. Cautiously recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 29 January 2012
Reading other reviewers being picky about this'n that, I am a little surprised to read here that 'it's too slow' (??)or that it is not well-written enough etc...Obviously not the book you would pick-up if you wanted to read grand literature, nethertheless I found it well written enough to pleasantly carry me through the story, not so much thinking about style, but about what was taking place...I simply loved the premise of this young couple on a holiday break in the Pyrennees when they are suddenly engulfed in a avalanche. What follows is utterly disconcerting and riveting, and no, I never guessed what was coming (the revelation at the end) because all is very skifully orchestrated all along. I found it incredibly atmospheric, I could see the abandonned hotel, the snow slopes, the total isolation of the two protagonists, left behind to survive in a deserted world. This is a theme I like in literature and so far found two other books with that same theme but a very different treatment: 'Night Work' by Glavinic and 'Grand solo for Anton' by Rosendorfer. This one by Joyce is the one I prefer by far. There is a depth to the story that leaves one thoughtful and it is a very touching love story disguised as 'sci-fi'. I read it on a holiday where it proved to be a perfect, excellent holiday read indeed. Totally recommend it to anyone longing for the silence of the mountains and the snow...
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on 12 February 2013
I literally, just today, started/finished this book! My God! Soooooooooo triumphant! As a HUGE fan of Graham Joyce as it is, I picked up this book with great optimism (having already read 'The Storm Watcher' and 'The Tooth Fairy') and was transfixed to it. I love how we can set the scene without droning on just to fill pages like so many other authors do. I won't mention who these people are, but if you're an avid reader like myself, you know who I'm talking about (and more importantly, we know where they live...). And all the way through I felt so connected to the characters and even though there were very few, that only made me love them more. Whenever the scene turned for the worst I actually felt myself scared for the characters and then found myself relieved with my heart racing when they would turn out to be okay after a two or three pages of what I thought would be instant peril, and this was just in the opening chapters.
When reading a Graham Joyce novel, he makes you feel for the characters so much that you actually feel like you're one of them. You literally fall in love and pray for everything to be okay.
The pace of this story too is fantastic! It keeps you guessing all the way to then end and even after you've finished reading! A part of me wants to pick it up again so upon a second glance I can pick up on little hints and such, but seriously, I don't think I could put myself through all that again, not for a while at least.

Seriously, I wish I could give this mother for than 5 stars! Just literary perfection! Graham, I tip my hat to you!
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on 17 June 2012
Zoe and Jake are trapped in an avalanche while on a skiing holiday, but somehow manage to escape. Or do they? They find their hotel and the local village both deserted and the phone lines dead, but when they try to venture further afield for help, they keep finding themselves back where they began. A waiting game begins, while they try to work out what has happened, or - perhaps more importantly - what will happen next...

Joyce has an unpretentious prose style that is easy to read, and a gift for both characterisation and evocation of place which I hoped might lift a storyline that otherwise held little appeal for me. Having read the back cover synopsis, one knows to expect a slightly hackneyed scenario to play out, and - aside from the sarcastic banter - it really does have the deja vu feel of watching a Sunday afternoon movie you have seen too many times before. One must be of a certain mindset(/generation?) to find the characters' banter entertaining, and I did find it somewhat grating. I was simply waiting for the story to move on and find out if we would ever know why, in this particular instance, the scenario was taking place.

I was in fact slightly shocked when, a little pseudo-philosophising and a lot of schmaltz later I found that there were no surprises to unfold in this story. The characters retained a ghostly lack of solidity and believability, despite their constant back and forth of conversation; and what began as a cliché, continued and ended as a cliché. I knew from previous of Joyce novels (of which I am nevertheless fond) that he is a romantic at heart; but while it's nice to see a contemporary author - not of the romance genre - who is not too jaded to write about a true love relationship, it was disappointing that there really was no unique perspective to be gleaned from this very straightforward requiem for life and love. I should have trusted my instincts with regard to a synopsis that did not appeal. On the plus side, it didn't take more than a few hours to read.
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VINE VOICEon 18 November 2010
I first read 'The Silent Land' back in June as an early reading copy yet in spite of all the books I have read since this story has remained with me, the mark of a great book in my opinion. The plot is reminiscent of the series 'The Twilight Zone'; while on a skiing holiday in the Pyrenes Zoe and Jake are caught in an early morning avalance, from which it would appear that they should not have survived; but they do. Returning to the village they find it deserted, after a few days they decide to try to leave but find out they can't, however they try to leave, skiing or by car they keep ending back at the village. Are they alive, dead, or somewhere inbetween? This is the mystery they and the reader have to solve.

The title 'The Silent Land', comes from the famous poem 'Remember' by Christina Georgina Rossetti, which is quoted at the front of the novel; therefore it gives nothing away to say that this story is about death. It is also a poignant, supernatural love story, but not at all sentimental. The main, and for the most part only characters are Zoe, Jake and the beautiful snowy landscape that surrounds them and by the end of the book I felt that I really knew these people and cared about them. I can't deny that this book is sad, but it also has humour and ultimately left me with a tear in my eye and a smile on my face.

A book for anyone who really likes to get to grips with the characters and for those who like strange supernatural tales. The plot may not feel 'original' but the execution brings something new to it. A perfect Winter read, curl up by the fire with a mug of hot chocolate and enjoy.
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on 19 July 2011
The Silent Land has an accessible and easy flow to its prose that does keep the pages turning. There are some beautifully evocative turns of phrase throughout and an interesting use of increasingly potent dream symbols that foreshadow what is to come.

However, with that said, I still had problems with this novel.

Jake and Zoe were rather schizophrenic characters I felt. Every moving scene they shared would be jarred by 'hip' dialogue where they seemed to be trying to act twenty years younger than they were. I found the slang to be completely out of character for individuals from their respective backgrounds and thought this served to undercut the poignancy of certain key scenes to the detriment of the novel as a whole.

Jake also had the most significant character arc to follow and it seemed like much of his growth was kept hidden until very near to the end which again jarred as he seemed to suddenly change rather than to naturally do so according to his circumstances.

With regard to the setting and story itself, I had a distinct feeling of having been here before which meant that I worked out the conclusion to the novel about halfway through and this did detract from the emotional impact of the ending as a result. Though I did think there was one moment where sentiment was laid on a little too thickly during the climax, which was a shame given the restraint shown up until that point.

Just to reiterate, The Silent Land is well-written and flows well and my main problems with it were the fluctuating characterisation and the familiarity of their predicament.
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