Booker Prize-winner Bernardine Evaristo called The Silence Project “engrossing and original, political and unpredictable… [a book that] will get people talking,”. That’s a tantalising blurb, so I was thrilled when Corvus Books (via Allen & Unwin) sent me a copy for review.
The premise: 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.
The Silence Project is styled as Emilia’s account of her mother’s silent protest, and the fall-out. It’s a kind of alternate history in two halves – a biography of Rachel up to the Event, and an exposé of the Community afterward.
The prose is frank, and completely believable. It reads like it is an actual account of actual events. I did notice a few small inconsistencies in the story, but as this is an advance review copy of The Silence Project, they may be ironed out by the time the final version hits the shelves. And besides, they didn’t bother me as much as the heavy-handed foreshadowing.
This is the kind of quasi-dystopian feminist fiction that will definitely appeal to fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments. I don’t doubt it will be popular with book clubs as soon as it’s released, and there’s probably a film adaptation in our future.