A story of love and loss inspired by heartrending true events in the Unoccupied Zone of wartime France
An epic, sweeping tale set in wartime France, The Silent Hours follows three people whose lives are bound together, before war tears them apart:
Adeline, a mute who takes refuge in a convent, haunted by memories of her past;
Sebastian, a young Jewish banker whose love for the beautiful Isabelle will change the course of his life dramatically;
Tristan, a nine-year-old boy, whose family moves from Paris to settle in a village that is seemingly untouched by war.
Beautifully wrought, utterly compelling and with a shocking true story at its core, The Silent Hours is an unforgettable portrayal of love and loss.
The Silent Hours by Cesca Major is published by Corvus (Atlantic Books) in paperback on 4 June 2015, and is the author's debut novel.
The Silent Hours is a story that is told in threads, and each thread is expertly woven together to create an unforgettable, and quite stunning story that has such impact, and such power. It really is quite incredible that this is a debut novel, the story is haunting and beautiful and just knowing that it is based on a real story adds volumes to what really is a gripping read.
The Silent Hours is told in multiple voices and opens just after the war in the early 1950s in a nunnery in south-west France. Adeline is a mysterious woman, a mute who arrived on the doorstep of the nunnery some years ago. Nobody knows where she came from, or her story, or why she cannot, or will not speak. The reader is allowed into Adeline's thoughts, and her story slowly unfurls - with a gentle pace, and links in to the other voices of this novel.
The other main characters are Isabelle and her brother Paul, their stories are told in the main through the letters that they write to each other during the war years. Paul is held prisoner, Isabelle remains in their small village, and waits patiently for him to return. Sebastian is a young Jewish man, his family are successful bankers, but the war and the impact of the Nazi regime on the Jews in France alter his life dramatically. He and Isobelle meet and fall in love, and their story is the foundation of the whole novel.
The reader also hears from Tristan, a young schoolboy whose family have fled Paris, and now reside in the same small village. Tristan is naive, sometimes selfish and very well protected from the horrors of war. This is his coming of age story.
Cesca Major is a huge talent, and I am certain that The Silent Hours is the start of a very successful writing career for her. She has an incredible way with words and has created a love story that is memorable. She has skilfully incorporated the horrors of war and the devastating events that happened in this village in unoccupied France into the story, and whilst the love story is strong, it is the real-life events that she so skilfully portrays that really leave an impact.
There are comparisons to Louisa Young's My Dear I Wanted to Tell You, and I agree. The Silent Hours has the same shock factor that Young's novel delivered so well. This is an incredible story, one that will affect the reader for a long time after the final page is turned.
My thanks to lovereading.co.uk who sent my copy for review.
Cesca Major read history at Bristol University and worked in television before becoming a history teacher. In 2005 she was runner up in the Daily Mail Writing Competition for best opening paragraph to a novel and had a short story published in Sentinel Literary Magazine.
She has written regularly for the website www.novelicious.com
She currently works as a housemistress at a boarding school in Berkshire.
For more information about the author, visit her website www.cescamajor.com
Follow her on Twitter @CescaWrites