The Silent Land: A Novel

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Granted, the technique has its disadvantages: now and then I have bought books that decorated their borders with more artistry than their interiors, and occasionally the final lines of a story will contain some ruinous premature revelation. But knowing how a book arranges itself answers a few essential questions: What are its rhythms? What is its emotional tenor? Can I feel comfortable relinquishing myself to its authority?

How will it go about removing me from and then reintroducing me to the trajectory of my life? Gentle six-pointed flakes from a picture book, settling on her jacket sleeve. It was snowing again. This was the sort of book, I supposed, that would build its meanings sentence by sentence, pausing to gather itself together again after every period.

Snow and silence; the complete arrest of life; a rehearsal for and a pre-echo of death. Zoe remembers the death of her father on holiday with his retired mates and her feeling that he had communicated with her at the moment of death — nothing so crude as a visitation, just a sense of well-being, and of being under the same moon. Joyce writes about moments of spiritual insight with a novelist's eye for the shape of moments and a poet's sense of how they feel. He also has a wonderful sense of how to make things real. His choice of a winter setting, of the violent yet graceful physical exercise of skiing, the little bits and pieces of past experience, above all of the harsh beauty of mountains and the tiring intensity of cold: all these are carefully, magisterially deployed.

Part of the point of this book is not our fascination with Zoe and Jake's eventual fates; it is also the austerity with which Joyce depicts it. This is a study in classic supernatural fiction, told with a skill that we enjoy for its own sake without feeling that style swamps story. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. Want to discuss real-world problems, be involved in the most engaging discussions and hear from the journalists?

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The Silent Land by Graham Joyce

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Graham Joyce’s The Silent Land – mirabile dictu

But it's not the mystery of the novel that makes its interest. The perspicacious reader understands quite quickly what is happening. It's the struggle of the characters, Zoe and Jake, their hopes, their sacrifices, that make of The Silent Land a very striking novel. Graham Joyce was an amazing story teller and you can find evidence of it in each and every page: the descriptions, the actions, the characters' thoughts. As often in his novels, the depictions allie the mundane to the poetic, steeped in strangeness and fantasy. Joyce referred to his writing as "Old Peculiar" and many symbolic elements are evocative of folklore or of a larger truth, always elusive.

The relationship between Zoe and Jake is beautifully told, from the most banal moments to the most heartbreaking. They all strike true: not only you are quickly invested in the characters but they also become embodiments of the human condition.