Tuesday 21 February 2023

The Silence Project by Carole Hailey BLOG TOUR #TheSilenceProject @CaroleAHailey @CorvusBooks @RandomTTours #BookReview


Monster. Martyr. Mother.

On Emilia Morris's thirteenth birthday, her mother Rachel moves into a tent at the bottom of their garden. From that day on, she never says another word. Inspired by her vow of silence, other women join her and together they build the Community. Eight years later, Rachel and thousands of her followers around the world burn themselves to death.

In the aftermath of what comes to be known as the Event, the Community's global influence quickly grows. As a result, the whole world has an opinion about Rachel - whether they see her as a callous monster or a heroic martyr - but Emilia has never voiced hers publicly. Until now.

When she publishes her own account of her mother's life in a memoir called The Silence Project, Emilia also decides to reveal just how sinister the Community has become. In the process, she steps out of Rachel's shadow once and for all, so that her own voice may finally be heard.

The Silence Project by Carole Hailey was published in hardback on 9 February 2023 by Corvus. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour. 

The Silence Project has such an intriguing premise, it's the sort of blurb that really calls to me. I love books that feature cult-like groups, especially those with female lead characters. Carole Hailey has taken a totally imagined scenario and made it feel so incredibly real. The style and structure of the novel feels like a true-crime story, and there were many times when I really felt as though I were reading the truth. 

When Emilia Morris was thirteen years old, her mother Rachel stopped speaking. Rachel had been an ordinary kind of mother before this, she could be moody and Emilia never quite knew if she would be 'funny, understanding Mum', or 'strict and offhand Mum'. They were an average family who ran the local pub and were a huge part of the local community. Not only did Rachel stop speaking, she moved out of the house, pitching a tent at the bottom of the garden.

Rachel communicated with her family, and others by writing notes and keeping notebooks. Her main aim was to make people listen to each other, to 'stop speaking, and start listening'. For Emilia and her father, this is a major turning point in their lives. They have no idea where it will lead, and the novel opens years later when Rachel and thousands of her followers take their own lives by setting themselves on fire. In front of TV cameras, and in front of their families. However, even though Rachel is now dead her legacy lives on, and the Community, as her followers are known as, are a powerful force in the world, admired by many.

The novel is structured in different parts. We follow Emilia as she begins to read through the many notebooks that Rachel kept during her life, in preparation for publication. Emilia is determined to do this, to counteract the thousands of articles and books already written about Rachel, although members of the Community are not happy about this. There are also flashbacks to the early days of the Community, how it grew and strengthened, there are detailed letters from Emilia's father and from her friend. It's a great way to keep the reader's interest. 

What really struck me about The Silence Project was how much of Rachel's teachings that I agreed with. Yes, we need to start listening, we need to look after the planet, we need to care more for one another. But sadly, as happens so many times in organisations that begin with good intentions, the members can become power hungry. Whilst they may be activists and trailblazers, they can become dangerous and negate all of the good works. 

At times shocking, and always eye-opening, this would be the perfect book group read. There is so much to discuss within the pages. It's a book that I will not forget in a hurry. Recommended by me. 

Carole Hailey completed the six-month Guardian/UEA novel writing course taught by Bernardine Evaristo, who imbued Carole with such a love for writing fiction that she abandoned her career in law to undertake an MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, followed by a PhD in Creative Writing at Swansea University. 

Carole was a London Library Emerging Writer 2020/21. 

The Silence Project is her first published novel and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize Peggy Chapman-Andrews First Novel Award 2020 and highly commended by the judges. 

She lives in Wales with her husband and two rescue dogs.

Instagram @carolehaileyx

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