Book Review: The Rest Is Silence by Carla Guelfenbein

Considering this was originally in Spanish, there are some truly beautiful English quotes to be remembered from this book. For example, although simple, “growing up is like climbing a hill carrying a big sign round your neck that says ‘forget'”, and “when your mum dies, half the people you love most in the world are dead” are both extremely poignant ways of phrasing things that almost the entire world feels but don’t always know how to articulate. They are also good examples of two of the main themes of the book: Tommy (age 12) trying to find his place, at an awkward age between his younger cousins and the adults of the family, whilst having no friends due to his heart condition and weakness, and simultaneously discovering that his mother committed suicide, leading him to find his own way to become closer to her and understand what happened in the past as well as the present. Running parallel to Tommy’s turmoil are the issues within his father and stepmother’s marriage. Many of these issues come from a difficulty communicating with those closest to them, as well as having discoveries made by people at the wrong place and time, mostly also due to miscommunication.

The Rest Is Silence fits a lot into one fairly short book following these themes, but this is nothing but a success as it spurs you to continue reading, helped by the fact that it’s short enough that you can easily finish it within a few days. The writing style is also extremely clear and easy to read, though it is hard to say whether this is due to the original author or the translator.

This is the most emotional book I’ve read in a while, with the whole last section of the book threatening to bring tears. There is, cleverly, a section in which you think the unspeakable has happened but it was described in such a way that you have to find out with Juan and Alma. The only satisfactory thing about the ending was that something truly awful can bring people closer together again, thanks to mutual love, which is a lesson that the characters and many readers alike may need.


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