I received a copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Rosamund Lupton has already began carving a name for herself in the literary thriller market with her 2010 debut, Sister, and then its follow up, Afterwards. The Quality Of Silence is her third offering and in this novel she’s moving away from familiar territory, forgoing good old England for the icy mountain roads of Alaska.
Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby arrive in Alaska from England looking forward to being reunited with Matt, Yasmin’s wildlife cameraman husband and Ruby’s father. But the family reunion plans are marred as soon as they step off the plane when the police tell Yasmin that there’s been a savage fire in the village where Matt was staying. There’s no survivors.
Yasmin just can’t believe that her husband is dead, she’s sure she received a phone call from him but the police won’t listen so she decides to set out into the hostile Alaskan wilderness to find him. Lupton gradually reveals how their fragile marriage had reached at breaking point after Matt kissed a local villager and Yasmin is driven by her love as she embarks on the perilous journey. “And here was the base of illogic on which she built the rest of her cogent hypothesis – that he had to be alive because she loved him; an emotional truth so keenly felt and absolute, that it couldn’t be dented by rational argument.”
The journey to find Matt takes them on some of the most treacherous roads in the world, and it seems Lupton’s change of location has paid off. There’s a wonderfully tense atmosphere as she captures the dangers of the road and struggle to survive in a cold which is “predatory and remorseless” in “unutterable darkness” and “screaming wind.” The pair battle both natural dangers – ice, avalanches and hypothermia – and something more human, and altogether more sinister.
The characters in this book were a little bit of a mixed bag. I was unsure how I felt about Yasmin throughout the novel and kept changing my mind; she’s represented as a strong, powerful woman but she chooses to expose her child to unthinkable dangers. And yet, I couldn’t help but sympathise with her as she battled inhumane conditions, finding the will to carry on out of a deep-seated love and determination for her family.
On the other hand, I loved Ruby throughout; her young, innocent voice was refreshing to read in what could have otherwise felt like quote a bleak novel. Her deafness added an extra layer of complexity to her and her relationship with the outside world, including her mother. Ruby relies on her laptop for a lot of her communication and loves social media and she feels it is the only place where she can connect to people on an equal playing field. This habit of communicating through a computer irks her mother, but as their journey progresses, so does their relationship and respect for each other as they begin to understand one another better.
The author has a knack of slipping ethical issues into her psychological thrillers, and this one is no different. In the wilderness of Alaska, she examines the effect of hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – on the natives of the land. It’s something I’d never even thought about, but I was drawn in straight away and Lupton covers it well without ever getting too bogged down with an overload of facts.
The mystery in this novel is quite a slow burn; it’s more of a relationship drama in parts and a survival novel in others, but it picks up in last third. There are some good twists and it had me gripped throughout, but it does require a little suspension of disbelief and the final few pages felt a little bit weak. Still, the original plot, great characters and epic location make this a worthwhile read.