The Silent Land by Graham Joyce

DATE FINISHED: June 17th, 2012 

RATED: *** 

SYNOPSIS:  Zoe and Jake are trapped in an avalanche while on a skiing holiday, but somehow manage to escape. Or do they? They find their hotel and the local village both deserted and the phone lines dead, but when they try to venture further afield for help, they keep finding themselves back where they began. A waiting game begins, while they try to work out what has happened, or – perhaps more importantly – what will happen next…

THOUGHTS:  Joyce has an unpretentious prose style that is easy to read, and a gift for both characterisation and evocation of place which I hoped might lift a storyline that otherwise held little appeal for me. Having read the back cover synopsis, one knows to expect a slightly hackneyed scenario to play out, and – aside from the sarcastic banter – it really does have the deja vu feel of watching a Sunday afternoon movie you have seen too many times before. One must be of a certain mindset(/generation?) to find the characters’ banter entertaining, and I did find it somewhat grating. I was simply waiting for the story to move on and find out if we would ever know why, in this particular instance, the scenario was taking place.

I was in fact slightly shocked when, a little pseudo-philosophising and a lot of schmaltz later I found that there were no surprises to unfold in this story.  The characters retained a ghostly lack of solidity and believability despite their constant back and forth of conversation; and what began as a cliché, continued and ended as a cliché. I knew from previous Joyce novels (of which I am nevertheless fond) that he is a romantic at heart; but while it’s nice to see a contemporary author – not of the romance genre – who is not too jaded to write about a true love relationship, it was disappointing that there really was no unique perspective to be gleaned from this very straightforward requiem for life and love. I should have trusted my instincts with regard to a synopsis that did not appeal. On the plus side, it didn’t take more than a few hours to read.

FOLLOWING ON:  The Limits of Enchantment and The Tooth Fairy are both better examples of Joyce’s ability.


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