Thursday, 20 October 2016

Book Review: THE SILENT CHILDREN by Amna K. Boheim

The Silent Children

Title: The Silent Children
Author: Amna K. Boheim
Publisher: Troubadour Publishing Ltd
Read: October 2016

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Vienna, 1938: Something's amiss at the home of young Annabel Albrecht. First, her favourite maid Eva disappears, then her friend Oskar. Worse is to come – her brother is murdered and her mother is taken away, leaving Annabel to fend for herself.

Almost 70 years later, Annabel's son Max uncovers his mother's long-buried past, and unlocks the secrets preserved by Annabel's missing friends. But as Max is to discover, some children can never be completely silenced. Is he haunted by ghosts or by guilt, and will he ever escape?

The Silent Children is a gripping tale of tragedy and revenge, a modern-day ghost story that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

My thoughts:

I was thoroughly intrigued by the premise of this book as I do love a good ghost story, and the historical element of WWII was an added bonus. Plus, having grown up in the suburb of Hietzing, Vienna, as a child, many of the settings described in Boheim’s novel were very familiar to me. I could instantly visualise Annabel’s house with its high ceilings and chandeliers, and the dark damp cellar – ugh, I am getting goosebumps thinking about it. A good ghost story is one which makes you burrow deeper under the doona, shuddering at every creak of a floorboard, ducking for cover when a branch brushes against the side of the house in the wind, and having to turn all the lights on to venture to the toilet in the middle of the night. Boheim delivered all those elements to me, and the haunted house’s gothic setting followed me into my dreams (my fault for reading a ghost story before bed).

Where the story fell short for me was in the main character, Max, who remained an enigma to me despite the first-person narrative. To be honest, I found him rather wooden and stodgy, his voice that of an old person rather than the young man he is supposed to be. Had Max captured my heart and my imagination, the slow escalation of ghostly events would have worked so much better, but his inability to communicate his feelings to me, the reader, made the later part of the book appear exaggerated and forced. His account of events, rather than eliciting emotion, read like a tedious report he has to write as part of his office job (and I still haven’t figured out what his actual position there was). He didn’t shed a tear for his dead mother, and even the relationship with his new girlfriend was brushed over as if it had been a brief encounter with a stranger on the train. I felt that I was always held at arms’ length, forbidden to catch a glimpse of any emotion Max might be feeling, which in turn prohibited any real emotional engagement with the story from my end. Shame – there was real potential here to get me thoroughly engrossed in the chain of events had Max been a more sympathetic character.

The general theme of The Silent Children is a dark one, which has nothing to do with the wartime setting, but a different kind of crime altogether. I enjoyed Annabel’s flashbacks to her childhood, which initially appear innocent enough but soon acquire a much more sinister flavour. There were a few lose ends in Annabel’s story, which I would have loved to have answered, as they provided the backbone of the ghost story.

I guess I am sitting a bit on the fence with this one, as there were aspects of the story I really enjoyed, but others that didn’t work for me at all. To cut a long story short, I enjoyed the dark gothic feel of the story and its setting but would have loved to be able to relate more to the narrator to fully make it work for me and keep me interested.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

Image result for 3 stars

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