Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Silent Children - Amna Boheim

Summary: Vienna, 1938: Something's amiss at the home of young Annabel Albrecht. First, her favourite maid Eva disappears, then her friend Oskar. Worse is to come – her brother is murdered and her mother is taken away, leaving Annabel to fend for herself. 

Almost 70 years later, Annabel's son Max uncovers his mother's long-buried past, and unlocks the secrets preserved by Annabel's missing friends. But as Max is to discover, some children can never be completely silenced. Is he haunted by ghosts or by guilt, and will he ever escape?

The Silent Children is a gripping tale of tragedy and revenge, a modern-day ghost story that will stay with you long after you turn the final page. (Summary and image from I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.)

Review: Okay, to start, don't read this book at night. Don't. Especially when your husband is out of town on business and you have an overactive imagination. First off, it's impossible to put down. Second, the ghostly part (which I totally misjudged when I requested the book) comes out of nowhere and doesn't pull any punches. This is a book best read in a brightly lit room with birds chirping outside your window. 

Now to the actual book.

Boheim's debut novel is so well-crafted and well-executed, it's difficult to remember that this is her first book. Reminiscent of Daphne's DuMaurier's Rebecca (one of my favorite books to read in October), the reader is immersed into the mystery surrounding Max's family, a mystery that Max is uncertain whether he wants to even uncover. Boheim has done an impeccable job of creating and capturing how consumed Max becomes by these tidbits of revelation that keep appearing over the course of many weeks. 

The story without the ghostly aspect is strong enough. It could stand on its own without having to delve into the paranormal, which could in other hands prove fatal to the book. However, the ghostly aspect is sparse enough and so perfectly parsed out that instead of mucking up a story with unnecessary "boos" and "spooks", it strengthens and spices up the plot, truly taking it to the next level. It strikes a perfect balance between heartbreaking, terrifying, hopeful, and horrific.

The plot is dark. Notwithstanding the fact that it's a ghost story, the secrets Max's family has buried are difficult to read. Unlike Rebecca,  the ending holds no hope. It's tragic. It fits the story, but man. Have some tissues nearby. 

Rating: Four and a half stars

For the Sensitive Reader: Read in bright, sunshiny, populated company. The ghostly presence is vengeful. There is also a post-assault scene that is difficult to read. And the secret is dark.

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