What if we stop talking and start listening?
I absolutely loved The Silence Project. I was hungry for a feminist novel with a dystopian (or utopian) slant, and this delivered in spades.
The protagonist is Emilia, daughter of Rachel of Chalkham, who was the founder of the Community. Emilia tells the story of how it all started and of how the Community evolved from its founder’s initial ideas. On Emilia’s 13th birthday, her mother moved into the garden and stopped speaking. As Emilia rails at being abandoned, women start to gather around Rachel, finding solace in her silence and how she listens to them. The movement grows. And grows. And grows. Some years later, Rachel stages the Event, and the Community’s power and global influence snowballs.
It’s a wonderfully constructed multilayered novel, where the story is revealed piece by piece, keeping the reader intrigued. Emilia’s frustration is well captured as she strives to hold onto her mother while the Community appropriates her for themselves and their own purposes. Her fundamental frustration (what did her mother really mean??? what is listening???) pervades the book.
It’s an especially interesting novel to read in these times, as we witness the cult of the individual sparking right-wing waves in many countries. While the Community’s goals – to save the world (from climate change, overpopulation and poverty) – are more worthy, this book nevertheless asks valid questions about cults, about power politics and manipulation, about female empowerment and about utilitarianism/consequentialism: does the end ever fully justify the means?
With a great cast of well-drawn characters – both likeable and nasty -, strong writing overall and great pacing, The Silence Project is a clever novel of ideas and a cracking good read.
My thanks to the publisher, author and Netgalley for providing an ARC. All my reviews are 100% honest and unbiased, regardless of how I acquire the book.
Find The Silence Project on Amazon and at other bookstores, from 9 February 2023. Available for pre-order.
You might also enjoy: When the lights go out | Carys Bray
Meanwhile, here’s an index of all my reviews.