Originally published: 3 September 2020
Author: Louise O’Neill
Published by: Riverrun
Length: 400 pages
Reading dates: 1-4 September 2020
Nessa Crowley’s murderer has been protected by silence for ten years.
Until a team of documentary makers decide to find out the truth.
On the night of a wild party at Henry and Keelin Kinsella’s luxury house on the Irish island of Inisrun, there is a violent storm cutting the island off from the mainland. When morning comes, the body of young woman Nessa Crowley is found in their garden.
Nessa Crowley was one of the three beautiful sisters and the islanders were horrified by the murder. Knowing it had to be someone on the island at the time of the killing, Henry is the obvious one to blame, especially as he isn’t a born and bred islander, but with no evidence to convict him, he is never charged. From that moment onwards, Keelin and Henry are vilified by the other islanders, their artists retreat is burnt to the ground and their children struggle with the aftermath of the event.
As the book begins, two young Australian documentary makers arrive to try and solve the murder, to try and prove once and for all who killed Nessa Crowley. Henry offers them lodging in a small cottage the Kinsella’s own while they hold their interviews.
As soon as I saw Louise O’Neill had a new book out, I just knew I had to read it and in fact agreed to be involved in the blog blast having no idea what the book was even about. I have read two of O’Neill’s previous books, Only Ever Yours which was a YA dystopian novel and Asking For It which was also a YA novel which looks at the after effects of a rape. I think her ideas and her writing, tackling important issues is brilliant.
In After the Silence, O’Neill writes a brilliant psychological thriller which moves backwards and forwards in time. We don’t know what happened on the night Nessa Crowley died although it is obvious that Henry and Keelin do and they are nervous that the documentary makers will find out the truth. Keelin is our main focus, a woman who was born on Inisrun but now finds herself an outsider, abandoned by her friends and barely tolerated by her children.
It wouldn’t be an O’Neill novel without there being more to the story and we hear how Keelin suffered domestic abuse at the hands of her first husband and father of her son. We hear how she escaped and came back to the island on the death of her father and how she fell for Henry. However, despite Henry never physically harming Keelin, he controls her in different ways. He monitors her social media (deleting posts that might upset her). He keeps her medicated on a concoction of pills that keep her calm. He decides what she will eat, encouraging her weight loss, He chooses the clothes she wears. It is disturbing to read but as the book progresses we start to see why she might chose to stay with him.
O’Neill is very good at drip feeding the reader with little titbits of information that enables us to pull together the threads of the story. This book is an excellent psychological thriller, full of atmosphere on the beautiful and bleak island of Inisrun. I was completely gripped throughout and I was kept guessing to the end. A tragic and beautifully written book.
Thank you to Quercus for my gifted copy for review as part of the blog blast. Don’t forget to check out these other awesome bloggers!
About the author:
Louise O’ Neill was born in west Cork in 1985. She studied English at Trinity College Dublin and has worked for the senior Style Director of American Elle magazine. While in New York, she also worked as an assistant stylist on a number of high-profile campaigns. She is currently working as a freelance journalist for a variety of Irish national newspapers and magazines, covering feminist issues, fashion and pop culture.