Lies Told in Silence
This is a novel of WWI told from the point of view of three women living in France. A sophisticated family, with the complexities of different generations – the Noisettes are driven from Paris by war. Helene, is the daughter who grows into a new world as her brother and father are taken away by work and fighting; Lise, her glamorous mother, is unforgiving until tragedy makes her think again; and Mariele, the grandmother, who takes them all in and keeps a much-needed stability. This is an ambitious book that spans the whole war and is meticulous in its research. No critic of historical fiction can fault this book for accuracy.
The challenge came with the length. I did occasionally find it a little hard to concentrate on the plot as the facts became somewhat overwhelming in places. While it is interesting to know the accurate detail, there was a bit too much of it – I wanted to get on with the story the characters; their feelings, their emotions. Some of the events took over and became the more important focus, whereas this should have been the characters’ priority as this is a novel, not a non-fiction account. Perhaps it was because of this that I also found the adjectives ran away with the author’s obvious excitement and delight in what she was creating: ‘the room spread like a country canvas of tranquil colours and soft contours to create an aura of calm’. While this does conjure a marvellous artistic picture, it is somewhat over-elaborate within the length of the novel: ‘tranquil and soft‘ would be enough to show us the mental image we need.
Having said that, the author is without question a superb historian, and readers who devour their facts with their fiction, and enjoy an epic tale, will thoroughly enjoy this novel (which is a read-alone sequel I believe). For future work I would suggest a tactful editor who could keep the author’s eager exuberance on a tighter rein because Ms Tod has the making of becoming a very fine writer.