review published on September 12, 2013. Reviewed by Sue Wilsea
Nudge Reviewer Rating:
Silent Noon, set in the early 1950s, tells the story of Barney Holland who comes as a charity pupil to Carding House boarding school on the island of Lindsey. He is bullied, befriended by another social misfit Belinda and comes under the influence of the seemingly psychopathic Ivor Morrell. The island abounds with secrets, from Miss Duchȃtel who leads an isolated existence and might have been a wartime collaborator to the French teacher Mr Swift who had an affair with Belinda’s mother. With dramatic incidents involving the discovery of a long dead baby and an unexploded bomb you’d have thought this was a real humdinger of a novel. It isn’t. For me it was like a guest who’s turned up at the wrong party in the wrong clothes.
I wondered at one stage whether it was intended as a Young Adult novel ( indeed, that’s what Trilby Kent is known for ) but, given the marketing materials, I assume not. However, there are certainly elements of a YA text such as the lone child away from home under threat, the gang stealing out late at night for adventures, secret feasts and so on. One of the reasons for this sense of awkwardness is a historical distortion which asks the reader to believe that Lindsey is in the North Sea ( the pupils depart from Grimsby) yet was occupied by the Germans. The way the authorial voice can refer to Barney by his first name and his last name on the same page and, in one chapter, as ‘the boy’ impedes the narrative flow; a similar effect is produced by the inclusion of an extract from a guide book at the start of the third section which gives no indication, by way of italicisation or quotation marks, than it is so. And finally, the children on the cover bearing no relation at all to the ones depicted in the book and the creeping in of the Americanism ‘stoop’ was an irritation.
As is always the case, if the reader feels that the writing is strong enough to override the above factors then I’ve no doubt they will be carried along by what happens in Silent Noon and enjoy the novel. Certainly the material itself is full of potential and Kent’s quoted intention to depict the anxiety felt by young people in the inter war period, is itself very interesting. What did come over very clearly was that at this time what one’s parents did in the war somehow defined the young person’s social status. In addition, there are some interesting characters such as Belinda’s mother and the shadowy Spike, Barney’s step father. All the pieces are there but, for this particular reader, not assembled in a satisfying way.
Dirty Work, by Gabriel Weston
Elizabeth of the German Garden: A Literary Journey, by Jennifer Walker
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