Originally published: 9 February 2023
Author: Carole Hailey
Published by: Corvus
Length: 400 pages
Reading dates: 18-21 January 2023
Monster. Martyr. Mother.
On Emilia Morris’s thirteenth birthday, her mother Rachel moves into a tent at the bottom of their garden. From that day on, she never says another word. Inspired by her vow of silence, other women join her and together they build the Community. Eight years later, Rachel and thousands of her followers around the world burn themselves to death.
In the aftermath of what comes to be known as the Event, the Community’s global influence quickly grows. As a result, the whole world has an opinion about Rachel – whether they see her as a callous monster or a heroic martyr – but Emilia has never voiced hers publicly. Until now.
When she publishes her own account of her mother’s life in a memoir called The Silence Project, Emilia also decides to reveal just how sinister the Community has become. In the process, she steps out of Rachel’s shadow once and for all, so that her own voice may finally be heard.
The Silence Project starts with a shocking scene – on 31 October 2011, Rachel Morris, along with thousands of other women all over the world burn themselves to death. Her 21 year old daughter Emilia and husband witness the shocking event. Eleven years after this horrific event, The Silence Project: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Morris is a book written by Emilia that gives her version of the events that took place.
She tells the story chronologically, how on Emilia’s 13th birthday, after her friends had left her party in the pub her parents ran, Rachel without telling anyone what she was doing, took a tent and set up camp at the bottom of the pub garden, next to a stream and from that moment on, refused to speak another word to anyone, instead communicating with notes. To start with, she was a source of amusement to the local community but inspired by her vow of silence, and her mantra of “talk less, listen more” other women joined Rachel and soon a community of women from all over the country make a home for themselves with Rachel.
Over the eight years before she burnt herself to death, Rachel’s silence inspired women from all over the world to live in communities like hers and by the time of Rachel’s death they are starting to have influence on the political stage, their main agenda seeming to be about population control for the good of the environment. Emilia decides to write her book to tell the real story of what happened, both the story of her mother and also what happened to her in the aftermath of the event.
I loved the format of this book – a book within a book! I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and suffering that Emilia suffered because of her mother’s actions. She talks about what it was like as a child to not have her mum talking to her, how at times it enraged her but how eventually she almost got used to it. She speaks of her own time working with The Community and their policies are a little extreme to say the least. I really felt like this was a true event that took place and Emilia is a real person. The book feels a little academic in nature and includes links to websites and articles that have been written about the events and this adds to the authenticity of the book.
An extraordinary book, it left me shocked and unsettled but I loved it. The Silence Project is a story with a great premise that is shocking and thought provoking and comes highly recommended by me!
Many thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and to Corvus for my proof copy. Check out what other reviewers are saying on their blogs below:
About the author:
Carole Hailey completed the six-month Guardian/UEA novel writing course taught by Bernardine Evaristo, who imbued Carole with such a love for writing fiction that she abandoned her career in law to undertake an MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths. Her MA was followed by a PhD in Creative Writing at Swansea University, which Carole completed in 2020.
Carole was a London Library Emerging Writer 2020/21. Her novel, The Silence Project, was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize Peggy Chapman-Andrews First Novel Award 2020 and highly commended by the judges. The Silence Project is Corvus’ lead debut for the first half of 2023, publishing on 9th February 2023.
Carole lives in Wales with her husband and two rescue dogs.
Thanks for the blog tour support x
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