It is not a normal thing for me to rate a book by the number of times I cried, but in this case – the case of Eliza-Henry Jones’ debut novel In the Quiet – I can’t help myself. Six times! That’s out and out ugly cries, by the way. I teared up on a number of other occasions.
Published in 2015 as part of a three-book deal with Harper Collins, In the Quiet was shortlisted and longlisted for a number of awards. I sought it out now because I am hoping to interview the author for the ‘Australian Women Writers Challenge’ in the not too distant future as her second novel Ache is due for release in May. Ache is an extremely powerful four-letter-word and it strangely jumps out at me from the opening paragraphs of In the Quiet: “If I could still feel, I’m sure the yearning for them would be enough to make me ache” (2). Our dead narrator is thinking of her family who she watches living on without her, at the same time remembering snatches of a life lived happily; a life that she can no longer participate in. Henry-Jones alerts us to the state of our narrator in the opening sentence (“I don’t know how I died” (1)) but leaves the unravelling of the circumstances of her death until the end.
The narrator – Cate – has left behind a husband (Bass), a daughter Jessa, and twin boys Rafferty and Cameron, and she says of her children: “Jessa and Rafferty both have a hardness in them. Something Bass calls guts and I call the quiet.” (7).
In an ingenious unfolding of memories interspersed with the current goings on in the lives of Cate’s family following her death, we learn about the different ways people have of coping with grief, the impact of secrets, the heart tugs of unrequited love, and the regret of words left unsaid. A mother quietly mourns her daughter:
Just in case you’re floating around somewhere, I love you. I think about you every day. Your children are beautiful. I miss you. (158).
I can’t write about the times I cried, for that would involve spoilers but, in one instance, Henry-Jones lets you feel it building, until you are almost calling out a long desperate nooooo, until your breathing becomes ragged and you almost refuse to read on. Well that was me, anyway.
There is a suspense that carries the story almost maddeningly and it is hard to put the book aside. I was amazed at the depth of the characters and the confidence of voice and structure shown by such a young writer (born in 1990) so I am looking forward to reviewing her second novel. With multi-book deals, it seems it is often hard to live up to expectations created by the starter. Here’s hoping Henry-Jones does it.
This is a deliberately short review. Looking forward to interviewing the author soon for the AWW Challenge.
Searching out other reviews for In the Quiet, it soon became clear that the book didn’t affect us all the same:
A review for the AWW Challenge on Book Muster Down Under cites the “compelling voice” of this debut.
Antonia Hayes for the Sydney Morning Herald says it is a book guaranteed to make you cry and calls it “a surprise find”.
Kate W in her review on Books are my Favourite and best found the narrator too detached and “wanted scenes that made [her] sob”. Just confirms how different we all are as readers. I found Cate’s detachment necessary and, well, there’s no doubt about the sob factor where I’m concerned.
Cassie Hamer sums up neatly when she says she leaned in to listen, becoming engrossed after “invad[ing] the book’s personal space”.
Links to other reviews can be found on the AWW Challenge website.
Henry-Jones, Eliza: In the Quiet, Fourth Estate, Sydney. 2015.