PORTOBELLO, £12.99 Order for £11.69 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Rest Is Silence, By Carla Guelfenbein
Tender tales of memory, loss and love
Monday 13 June 2011
Tommy acts like any other young boy with a vivid imagination and youthful curiosity.
He lives in Santiago, Chile, with his father Juan and stepmother Alma, a pet stag beetle and an imaginary friend called Kájef. As well as having a keen interest in astronomy, he follows the blog of ethnologist Mr Thomas Bridge, and enjoys drawing and making-up stories.
But 12-year-old Tommy has a rare heart condition. Bullied at school, he spends his time alone, secretly recording conversations of the adults that surround him. When he overhears some gossip about his mother's suicide, he tries to uncover the truth about her death, setting off a train of events over which he has no control. Carla Guelfenbein has created a powerfully authentic voice in Tommy. His observations reflect his own inner state, as well as illuminating the moral quandaries of the adults around him. As he pieces together the facts behind his mother's death, his narrative also reveals the feelings of guilt that constrain his father.
Underpinning Tommy's story is that of Juan and Alma, who have been married for eight years. After the death of Tommy's mother, Juan throws himself into his work as a heart surgeon, until he meets Alma in Barcelona. They enjoy a brief affair and later, when she finishes her studies, Alma returns to Santiago and marries Juan. She brings her young daughter Lola with her.
Knitting together the voices of the three central characters, Guelfenbein skilfully highlights the different perspectives of gender and age. It is Juan's apparent indifference that prompts the passionate Alma to rekindle a relationship with her former sweetheart Leo.
In Guelfenbein's tender story, the unravelling of memories and how they impact on the present is a potent force. For Alma, "images get delicately pieced together, then deposit themselves in memory, but they don't remain stable there; they continue to change along with the feelings that accompany them". Tommy's lack of memories fuels his obsession with his mother's past. For all of them, memories shape a reality that is constantly shifting. Tommy's search for the truth ends in tragedy, but as well as examining the role of memory in dealing with loss, The Rest is Silence is also about the redemptive power of love. It is their mutual love for Tommy that helps Juan and Alma to reconnect and come to terms with their pasts.
There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turningTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rihanna 'nude pictures' claims emerge on 4Chan as hacking scandal continues
- 2 iOS 8 apps and features: eight iPhone settings you need to look at after you install the update
- 3 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 4 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 5 Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Downton Abbey fans outraged at Kindle sponsorship adverts
Cilla, episode 2, ITV, review: Sheridan Smith continues to shine as the young singer
Foo Fighters: Live 2015 tour dates announced for Sonic Highways
Kendrick Lamar announces new song 'i' following leak
Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God