THE QUALITY OF SILENCE. A Review of Rosamund Lupton’s latest novel.


Fetch your duvet now! Don’t forget your mittens, scarfs and bobble hats! Now are you ready for one of this years best books? Prepare yourself as you head into the dark frozen world of remotest Alaska.

‘The Quality of Silence’ begins innocuously enough as Yasmin and her daughter, Ruby, both from the UK, land in Fairbanks, Alaska. They are en route to meet her husband, Matt who as a wildlife film photographer, is working in the far north of Alaska.

Immediately on landing Yasmin learns that a catastrophic incident has killed her husband. Yasmin refuses to accept this and despite protestations from the police she is prepared to go to any lengths to find him.

Alaska. Dalton Highway.  Arctic winter. Trans Alaska Pipeline snakes across the tundra next to a truck driving on the highway hauling freight.

Yasmin and Ruby, a deaf but highly intelligent 10-year-old,  join a truck driver heading North where temperatures regularly plummet to below 50 degrees centigrade and where darkness is the winter norm. Soon Yasmin finds herself in charge of the rig and the search for Matt proves dangerous not only because of the conditions but also because of a mysterious threatening truck driver following them.

As the venture continues the quest becomes not just one for Matt but also develops into a search for herself, for the woman and mother she is and wants to be, for the memories of the love and relationship with Matt; the very ones she realises she now wants to rediscover.

mammapaintThis is a story as piercing as the wind, as relentless as the hurricane, as sharp as the ice all around them.

Ruby’s experiences are evocatively and lyrically narrated in the first person. Her close fun-loving relationship with her father shines as a beacon throughout the book. I love the chapter beginnings of Ruby’s twitter messages where, on her father’s urgings, she writes how words feel, taste  and look to her, the closest way she has to relating to meaning of words.

One such feed reads:

‘EXCITEMENT: Tastes like space dust & popping bubble gum; feels like the thud-bump of a plane landing; looks like the big furry hood of Dad’s Inupiaq parka.’

Furthermore through Ruby, who has ‘listened’ intently to her father’s life in Alaska, we learn of the inuits, their lives, the stunning Alaskan nature.

Yasmin’s story is in the third person but no less intimate. Her biggest fear has been of Ruby’s non-integration into society as her daughter’s refusal to vocalise words has become a battleground between Yasmin and Matt.

On a national level we learn of the attacks against the energy companies as eco-warriors use at times ferocious methods to thwart the the companies who believe they have an innate right to drill and frack in Alaska.

Lupton deftly weaves all these strands into an intense high-octane adventure. As Ruby increasingly finds her own unique voice, the reader is drawn further into the darkness, fear and despair. Nothing is quite what it seems.

I read this book in two days. Whilst I hate the overused term ‘unputdownable’; this book was exactly that. With good intentions I would close the book, returning it to the table before deciding no, I would read just one more chapter.

As I was enthralled and gripped by Lupton’s first novel, ‘Sister’, I had high hopes for this book. It did not disappoint but rather surpassed my expectations.

It has been an honour to be able to review this book. So do buy it, read it and be immersed. Oh, but don’t forget to make a hot chocolate before you start reading. You’ll need it.

I am a member of NetGalley.badge_proreader

Book Rating:  Smiley-face-emoticon-575-2

Publisher: Little Brown

Publish date:  2nd July 2015

Price:  Hardback:   £ 13.48  (amazon quoted prices)

Kindle:        £  5.03   (amazon quoted prices)

‘A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.’

Eleanor Roosevelt

NB. Painting courtesy of M. Ivarson

9 thoughts on “THE QUALITY OF SILENCE. A Review of Rosamund Lupton’s latest novel.

  1. Mike

    Congratulations on such a well written review – so much so that I feel I must get this book when it comes out. In the meantime I’m going to get my duvet, scarf and bobble hat (not sure where that is at the moment) at the ready!


  2. Peter R

    I love the idea of the taste, feel and look of a word. Some words are for savouring, some for storing in the memory to taste later. The fleece is ready, and the hot chocolate will be made once the book pings up on my Kindle. Looking forward to it.

    1. Yes, there were plenty more in the book to savour and made me stop for a moment and consider what I felt of different words, how I would see and taste and feel them. An interesting exercise. Enjoy the book, I know you will.

  3. Mirja

    A brilliant review Annika, giving such strong ( and chilly ) feel of the setting.
    The characters so vividly showing themselves, yet leaving us with even more
    mystery and questions.
    Having also read ‘sister’ by Lupton I am very eager to buy this book as soon as it comes out.
    Will snuggle up and have the hot co-co at the ready.

    1. Thank you so much Mirja. You will thoroughly enjoy the book. Don’t plan anything for a couple of days!! Not too long until you can buy it. I’m glad the review has drawn you in. Hard to do justice to the atmosphere – just read the book for the real thing!

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