The Silent Land by Graham Joyce

The Silent Land - Graham Joyce

youngish married couple go on a ski trip. avalanche! when they extricate themselves from the snow they find that everyone at their ski village has disappeared and that time now moves differently. what the hell?

fortunately, guessing the (entirely predictable) twists that come at the halfway and end points should not ruin the experience of reading this lovely and affecting book. unless you are the sort of reader whose experience rises and falls on the twists and turns and purely narrative pleasures of a book. if so, stay away. if not, then there is a lot to enjoy in The Silent Land - a minor note but very thoughtful, very sweet (but not saccharine) experience.


it is a chamber piece, of sorts: two primary characters; one POV - a wife contemplating her feelings about her husband and their future together. I say of sorts because, surprisingly, the married couple are not particularly well-developed or given the sort of rich, deep characterization that you'd expect to find in a novel with such a small cast and such intimate concerns. they are real people, certainly, but the context behind their actions and the lifetimes behind them that helped make them who they are... not so much of that, not really. there is a dog that gives some context (context that actually made me tear up a little bit, but I'm a sucker for sentimental stuff around animals)... and there are two wonderful chapters that are concerned with the impact that death has had on each of their fathers. those two chapters were insightful and the fathers are depicted with both clarity and warmth. very, very moving chapters - but they are anomalies in the novel. what is mainly present are the thought processes of the wife and husband, how they think, what they think, how and what they think about each other. the book is very Here & Now & What Comes Next. I thought this was a really interesting and atypical approach, and helped an already dreamlike (sometimes even nightmarish) landscape become even more dreamy.

the prose is also quite dreamy. rather spare, rather elegant, subtle, careful, with the occasional dash of idiosyncrasy to spice things up now and again. the atmosphere moves between eerie and ominous and even strangely enchanting... again, dreamlike.

naturally there is a lot of sex. I assume that most couples stranded by themselves in fairly luxurious quarters, who don't have much to do and who are still deeply attracted to each other on both an emotional and a physical level... yeah, there will probably be a lot of fucking going on. and hey, some making love too. all mixed up together.

anyway, the book is about love. how we live with it, how it is a magical thing yet also an everyday sort of thing, how it exists beyond the here and now, how it can stay with us and all the myriad ways it can take shape.

it also has a Christmas tree that is adorned with memories rather than ornaments. awesome idea!