REFLECTIONS: ‘In the Quiet’, by Eliza Henry-Jones

in the quietIN BRIEF:

A quiet book about grief and loss that will reel you in, page by page, until you simply can’t put it down. 

Details, details:

ISBN: 9781460750360
ISBN 10: 1460750365
Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
On Sale: 22/06/2015
Pages: 288
List Price: 29.99 AUD (paperback) 12.99 (e-book)

What the back cover says:

Cate Carlton has recently died, yet she is able to linger on, watching her three young children and her husband as they come to terms with their life without her on their rural horse property. As the months pass and her children grow, they cope in different ways, drawn closer and pulled apart by their shared loss. And all Cate can do is watch on helplessly, seeing their grief, how much they miss her and how – heartbreakingly – they begin to heal. Gradually unfolding to reveal Cate’s life, her marriage, and the unhappy secret she shared with one of her children, In the Quiet is compelling, simple, tender, true – heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure.

What I say:

There are two ways of reacting to a person with a quiet voice. You can either demand they speak louder, or you can lean in closer.

Both of these reactions perfectly sum up the way in which I responded to In the Quiet.

At first, I wanted something to happen. I demanded it, and then realised the futility of such a response. So I leaned in and started listening. Really listening. I invaded the book’s personal space and by the end, I was so engrossed that my children’s pleas for food were being ignored.

Let’s get one thing straight. You don’t need to believe in ghosts to believe in this book. Yes, the story is narrated entirely from Cate’s point of view, and Cate is dead, existing in a kind of limbo that allows her to see and hear all that happens to her loved ones. Sound strange? Well, it’s no more strange that the kind of all-seeing, all-knowing omniscient narrator that many, many authors use to tell fictional tales. It’s just that in this book, the narrator has a name and a long story to tell, which includes solving the mystery of how she died.

Eliza Henry-Jones has imbued her narrator with a distinctive voice. The delivery is raw and fragmented and verges on stream of consciousness.

‘Grief, I suppose, is something you think you understand once you have seen its colours, its shapes. But the thing about grief is that it is forever changing. A swell subsiding. The waves, their curl and height and depth, each different.’

Normally, a first-person, present tense narration can fall into reactive and egotistical territory and end up sounding a little childish. Not so in this book. In essence, nothing happens to Cate – what we are privvy to are her observations of others and her recollections of the past. It is almost as if she is leafing through a photo album and describing the moments she sees. But these are stolen, candid moments.

‘I see in images, in flashes. I see things in still moments that I explore, in whatever constitutes my memory, in the long darkness between.’

This is a beguiling book that reminds us that life is not a solely external experience; it doesn’t only exist in what we say and do, but in the many gaps in between.

About the author

Eliza Henry-Jones was born in Melbourne in 1990. She was a young Writer-in-Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre in 2012 and was a recipient of a Varuna residential fellowship for 2015. She has qualifications in English, psychology and grief, loss and trauma counselling. She is currently completing honours in creative writing – exploring bushfire trauma – and works in community services. She lives in the Dandenong Ranges with her husband and too many animals. In The Quiet is her debut novel.
For more information, or to purchase In the Quiet, visit Harper Collins