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The Silent Land

Posted by Dan Smyth On Friday, June 24, 2011

When is a fantasy novel not a fantasy novel? Well, I’d say when it’s this novel, but there might be others that would beg to differ. This one feels more like a literary novel to me. Anyone visiting this site interested in reading a literary novel? I don’t know if there will be, but here I go, nonetheless.

THE SILENT LAND is a Graham Joyce novel, an author with quite a few works already under his feet. It’s a quick, focused read revolving around the relationship of a single couple, Zoe and Jake. Zoe is the main PoV character, though Jake’s thoughts are peppered infrequently throughout the book.

Zoe and Jake are on vacation, skiing in the Pyrenees mountains above the village of Saint-Bernard-en-Haut. They’re out for a brisk morning slide down the mountain, when an avalanche descends on them from above. After making their way out of the resulting mess and back to their hotel, they find that everyone has gone, with nothing to explain their disappearance. The rest of the story details what they do there, on that lonely slope, all by themselves, and how it all turns out.

Joyce’s prose is excellent here. Fluid, descriptive, riveting. The setting of the small skiing village, the majestic mountain side, and the ever-oppressive weather were one continuous landscape that easily transported me to their surroundings. The plot develops well, moving from one discovery to the next, laying out the pieces to this couple’s predicament one layer at a time. At times, the portrayal of their story did feel truncated to some extent, but that’s probably what kept the book so short, which was nice.

There weren’t very many large surprises in this one, and I pretty much knew what was going on from the get go. It was interesting to see how Joyce laid his story out though, and to get into its telling. I do tire of the tool some authors use to try and relay tension by having characters “feel” or “sense” that something is going to happen. Thankfully, this wasn’t the only tool used to develop the atmosphere of the unknown that pervades the character’s minds.

There were also quite a few references to money and religion, death and life in general that really made it more of a literary novel than anything interesting. Guess I’m just not interested in the questions and ideas that literary novels try to develop. I’d rather get lost in the snow-stormed mountains with a dragon, or, honestly, get trapped in a town like Silent Hill, than read about the nuances of society. Call me a geek. It’s what I am, and I wear the badge proudly.

I can’t say I didn’t like this one, but as far as the story goes? The ideas? The fun? It’s on the low end of things. Read this one if you like literature. It definitely won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Recommended age: 18+
Language: Infrequent but strong
Violence: None
Sex: Several scenes between a married couple that are quite detailed

Graham Joyce's Website


  1. Larry Said,

    It is a sad occasion when some come down with the literary cooties, isn't it?

    Posted on June 24, 2011 at 1:06 PM

  2. facehugger Said,

    I really don't see the distinction between literature and fantasy or other genres, isn't Lord of the rings a majestic and deep literary novel? of course Twilight isn't, but that's not the point

    Posted on June 24, 2011 at 11:45 PM


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