Historical Fiction is a genre I am very enamored with, so naturally reviewing this book, The Silent Chapter: A Heartwarming and Heartbreaking Love Story in Twentieth-Century Britain, was an easy decision to make. The title in itself grabbed my attention; 20th century Britain you say? Yes, please!
The only issue with Historical Fiction as a genre is its broad nature. A book about ancient china can be put in the same box as this book, so rating the book on its genre alone is a little foolish, so unlike my reviewing for thrillers and murder mysteries, I’ve had to approach this review in a new way that means there are spoilers!
So without further ado… let’s have a look at this wonderful indie author’s debut The Silent Chapter.
Meet the Author
Hey, I’m Kathy, the author of The Silent Chapter. I’ve been writing ever since I was seven years old, scrawling stories on a few pieces of A4 at school, and when I was thirteen I had the idea to write an interwar romance following the life of a young couple as they navigate life’s twists and turns. It’s undergone some pretty drastic changes, but that novel became The Silent Chapter, which was released on February 7th. I’ve loved hearing what my readers think about it – thank you Molly for this review!
Where to begin. This is one of the best debut books I have read in a while, and can safely say it is in my top ten favourites. The novel follows the lives and families of two people, Dorothy and Patrick. These two are the definition of the opposite attracts love story, Dorothy being the free-thinking spirited woman from a matriarchal family, whereas Patrick is from a strict, hyper-religious patriarchial family.
The book is structured in a way that is not very traditional. The chapters outline certain time periods our couple face over a span of several years. It does make it difficult to find a conducive place to pause as there are no natural breaks within the chapters themselves. For a reader like myself, this can be dangerous as it will either a) make me stay up late reading or b) put me off until I know I have enough time to read for a prolonged period.
Story and Characters
A Romance of opposite attracts tackling mature themes in a respectful manner. The amount of research and respect that has gone into writing this book is in itself a 5-star rating. From the complex backgrounds of or two main characters to the research needed to understand and then formulate the opinions of secondary characters to be appropriate to the era of the piece. There are lots of little details within this book to remind you to be thankful for existing in the present day. Topics such as Women’s Rights, mental health, and the laws around society – the fact that it was deemed illegal to commit suicide and survivors would be ridiculed and put on trial instead of being helped. It blows your mind really.
The ending is very unexpected in the fact that it did not let me down. Sickly sweet yes, but good? Definitely. Want to prove me wrong then read to the end!
Let’s have a small breakdown of the main characters or the ones in my opinion who have the most weight in this book.
Dorothy – In my opinion, Dorothy is our antagonist here. Her writing is beautiful, her character development believable and overall relatable. (This may be because I am also a woman fighting the patriarchy). Dorothy is a likable mature yet naive woman. The way she listens to the people around her as well as being headstrong is a nice balance. She understands what is expected of her in society while also knowing when things are not right. Her character is somewhat shaped by Patrick in ways that are infuriating for the reader but very believable.
Patrick – There is a lot to unpack with this man. A rebellious boy turned shell-shocked soldier turned patriarchal male. I feel this character has so much confusion within himself. Unfortunately, I lose him in some places. The way he resents his father but at the same time aspires to be like him is also very confusing to me the reader. Overall I find him pretty awful as he has a number of red flags.
Edna – “”I’m feeling a little stifled” she’d said and that was as far as she got.”
Patrick’s mother, good little wifey to Bruce, Edna is the character that broke my heart in this book. How she is introduced at the start and her subsequent unraveling reflects her complexities as an individual. She is the extreme example of a woman’s place in the household at the turn of 20th century Britain. The way she is written to try and stand up for herself followed by instant regret brings the reality of how hard it must have been for women in her position.
Bruce – “Well, that’s a woman’s job. You’d best just accept your lot now because nothing will change.” I admire the writing. I hate him. I feel bad imparting part of this review to him that’s how disgusted I am by him as a character. The way his actions seemed to be justified by bible verses and the other characters accept this as God’s word is the law in their minds.
Overall the writing is good. It is easy to follow and digest making the book a pleasurable read. There are a few metaphors and similes that don’t quite work out for a period piece but other than that it’s a great debut.
Thank you for the opportunity to review this book, Katherine! I look forward to seeing what else you write.