The Quietness

Written by Alison Rattle
Review by Val Loh

Queenie is desperate to escape the harsh reality of daily survival in her poverty-stricken home. Love exists there but is dulled by the pain of hunger and the cries of siblings. She wishes for quietness. Ellen lives in luxury but is lonely and seeks love. Her father is cold and domineering. She thinks she has found her true love when a handsome young man stays at her home.

Both girls live in London in the year 1870, their lives separated by social standing are drawn together when Queenie thinks she has found an ideal position as a maid in the home of the Waters sisters. Their house does provide an unusual quietness for a place where babies are ‘adopted’. Ellen and Queenie’s paths cross in this dark place, for reasons I would not spoil the plot by revealing here.

This is an intriguing, absorbing and unpredictable novel. Written in two viewpoints, the reader follows both the girls’ stories eagerly as the pace never slackens or the plot slows. The period detail of the darker side of Victorian London is stark and honest. The book has emotional impact. The ending reflects justice in a fitting way which is in keeping with the thinking of the time. It is haunting, harsh and shows the importance of love despite all else.