Thursday, January 1, 2015

Book Review: Beyond Silence

Book Review: Beyond Silence
Author: Eleanor Cameron
Date: 1980
Publisher: E.P. Dutton
ISBN: 0-525-26463-9
Length: 198 pages
Quote: “She thought her Andrew called to her and looked up and saw the branch was not her Andrew who had called, but I, a future Andrew.”
Eleanor Cameron’s literary career began with the whimsical Mushroom Planet science-fiction parodies, written for primary school readers. Then she wrote several lively realistic stories about middle school students. Then she wrote this grown-up story, in which a young man visiting his family’s ancestral castle drifts in and out of time warps in which he actually seems to be meeting his ancestors. It’s not a ghost story—Andrew doesn’t think he’s being haunted by the dead, but that he’s travelling back into their lifetimes. It is a rather sad story; Andrew’s obsession with departed relatives who died young both masks and mirrors the grief he’s been suppressing since his brother died.
Grief is, according to some poets, passionless. This is not a story of passion. Beyond Silence has the emotional quality of stories bereaved people might have told or written, odd tricks the mourning mind plays on itself. Many bereaved people have been caught up in memories or imaginations of the departed; Andrew seems to see and hear things he “couldn’t possibly have known” about relatives who died before he was born, and even believes that he’s able to warn some relatives to avoid dangers.
The trouble is that, like many true stories about the mind’s tricks on itself, Andrew’s story won’t be as interesting to most people as it obviously is to him. Beyond Silence contains no romance, no suspense, and no comedy, and as a story about a quiet man’s emotional experience it lacks the brilliant intensity of Cameron’s semi-autobiographical stories about little girls. You can stay awake and follow the story if you try, but you won’t be lured onto an “emotional roller coaster.”

If taking readers on a tour of a flat, gray, wintry mental landscape was Cameron’s intention, then Beyond Silence is a striking success. If she was trying to do a male equivalent of A Room Made of Windows, it’s definitely not a success. Anyway, now you know.

Eleanor Cameron no longer needs a dollar. You can get a copy of this book cheaper than the $5 + $5 shipping you'd pay here. Keep scrolling; I'd rather sell you a Fair Trade Book by a living author.