The Silent Hours

Written by Cesca Major
Review by Mike Ashworth

On 10 June 1944, the village of Oradour-sur-Glane was targeted by the SS. The shocking ordeal which followed forms the climax of this remarkable novel. The story follows three people whose lives are intertwined – Adeline, a mute who has taken refuge in a convent; Sebastian, a young, naïve, Jewish banker; and Tristin, a nine-year-old boy. The story follows them as the war slowly encroaches on their peaceful, almost idyllic lives.

Do not be put off by the front cover, which gives, in my opinion, the wrong message. Although promoted as a story of love and loss, it is so much more than that. The chapters are small, some only one page, showing the lives of each individual, yet slowly and inexorably taking the reader forward to the horror which awaits in the final pages. There is a love story between Sebastian and Isabelle, but there is also anti-Semitism, childish innocence destroyed, and forcible deportation all lurking beneath the summer sunshine. The end is shocking, but not gratuitous, and I challenge you not to be moved. This is historical fiction at its best, and a notable debut novel. Highly recommended.