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Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The TV Book Club - The Weight of Silence

The last of the summer reads at the TV Book Club features The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf.

The story concerns the disappearance from their homes one morning of two seven-year-old girls, Petra and Calli. Calli is a selective mute, the result of some terrible experience in her young life. The family home is disturbed by her father who travels frequently for work and is also an alcoholic. Her mother tries, but fails, to get Calli to speak, but Petra manages to befriend Calli and starts to interpret for her.

The story takes place over 18 hours or so, during the search for the girls. It is told in the present tense, and in the first person by successive characters (except for Calli who is represented in the third person). Two questions emerge: what has become of the girls, and why doesn't Calli speak?

The contributors in the studio all agreed that The Weight of Silence
is an easy read, a page-turner to read beside the pool. The series is, after all, reviewing summer reads. There were, however, serious doubts about whether the serious issues raised by the book - the horror that Calli has experienced, as well as the realities of alcoholism - are treated seriously enough. One of the TV reviewers said she didn't want to know what had happened; this is after all light ho;iday reading. But, as another reviewer said, if the author wanted to create light summer reading, then she could have chosen a topic better treated lightly.

This episode, the last in the present series, can at the time of writing still be viewed here on the programme's website. The series returns with ten new titles in January.

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