The Roaring Silence: Yrsa Sigurdardóttir’s Silence of the Sea

 

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“Do you not then hear this horrible scream all around you that men usually call silence.” –The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

Full disclosure: I don’t have one nautical bone in my body.

Besides having crippling motion sickness, the idea of spending any amount of time aboard something with a higher than average likelihood of sinking into the sea is like some new dimension of hell.

I have been on boats in the past, and I have never had a feeling where I thought, “This is fine. Let’s do this more.” In all honesty, most of those trips ended with me crawling to shore, begging for the dizziness to stop and my land legs to be regained.

It pretty much goes without saying that I have little to no concept of ships and sailing vessels. I don’t understand the terminology. All I know is that if this shit hits something, we’re going down. Game over.

So, one would think that using a malfunctioning ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with a murderous crew and an innocent family would make for a creepy, appealing thriller.

Wrong. This is where Yrsa Sigurdardóttir 2016 novel The Silence of the Sea totally misses the boat, literally and figuratively.

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As a debut novel, Silence of the Sea leaves a lot to be desired- like, perhaps, I don’t know, a comprehensible plot with rounded, interesting characters. It is a mystery/thriller that drags on for ages and easily loses readers with both confusing, specialized boat terminology and a generally bizarre story line.

The novel flips between two stories; the primary being that a private luxury yacht arrives at its destination completely deserted. Its 7 crew members and passengers that were set to arrive in a Reykjavik harbor are nowhere to be found, leading to the secondary plot line that follows Thora Gudmundsdottir, a lawyer hired by one of the missing man’s parents to solve the mystery of what happened aboard the vessel.

What proceeds are 325 pages of either nothing happening or too much happening that it’s impossible to decipher what’s going on. If you choose to read this novel, be prepared to have to Google a lot of words. What’s a ________? x50

There are genuinely creepy moments in Silence of the Sea; I will give it that. However, the reader is primarily lead to believe the ship is haunted, which really makes it much more of a thriller. Sadly (who knew not being haunted would be sad), this is not the case, leaving the reader to go back and ask, “Wait, what?”

The story line is also nothing short of bizarre and hardly believable. I like the idea of the abandoned ship- that part makes for an interesting tale. But the idea of having a lawyer act as the sole detective in the case is strange, but maybe this is an Icelandic thing that differs from the American norm.

The story is also like an exercise in estate planning. There are literally pages and pages where Thora is focused on legal paperwork or dull day-to-day administrative duties. Like I don’t do enough of that in my life.

In the end, Thora’s goal is to prove Aegir, Lara, and their two little girls, all passengers aboard the ship, are in fact dead and not trying to pull a fast one on the insurance company in order to get the money, which is a weird twist on the usual take where readers follow the cops as they actually attempt to solve the murder.

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The characters aren’t terribly believable either, with the exception of the twins. Thora herself is incredibly boring, and we know virtually nothing about her except that she’s divorced with a German boyfriend and family drama between her and her kids. Everyone remains flat and droll as can be.

This is made worse by what I guess is an awkward translation of Icelandic to English. The sentences often don’t flow well, and it’s difficult to determine if its a matter of translation from the Icelandic or if it’s poor writing.

No mater which it is, I would urge readers to have Google by their side if they choose to read the Silence of the Sea. And be prepared to never want to go to sea again. You’re reminded by this novel that it’s just some kind of fresh hell.

Star Rating: 2 out of 5 

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A Shameless Exhibition- Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle

I am absolutely at a loss as to why people love Kurt Vonnegut’s work.

This comes from a reader whose favorite author is Kafka. Dark humor is not something I stray from, nor do I ignore texts that use humor to mask the terror and hopelessness of some of the darkest human fears, including nuclear war and total annihilation that Kurt Vonnegut’s fourth novel, Cat’s Cradle, touches on.

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E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime: Footnotes of History

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Times were never simpler.

We like to think of the past as “simpler times,” something that is often used to make a joke and a slight wince in memory of how things used to be. But there has never been a time in human history where scandal, corruption, greed, and fury have not penetrated the mass existence. There have only been times when the envelope had not yet been pushed.

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Lock & Load: Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here

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It can happen here, it is happening here, and because it will happen here, you best start packing heat; the overarching message of one of my latest reads, Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here. This dystopian fantasy is so eerily relevant to our current political climate and the constant turmoil found in governments across our country that one can’t help but wonder if Lewis wrote this in preparation for the election of Trump.

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A Not Really Most Wanted Man

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Spy novels were never really my thing. Police dramas: definitely. Dark tales of Cold War espionage by John le Carré: not so much. Just never my style.

But I recently saw a copy of A Most Wanted Man on sale in a bookstore, and I was interested enough to purchase it for a bad reason- I wanted to see the movie. But like a neurotic reader, I always have to read the book first. The struggle.

This was not a good choice when it comes to a first le Carré read. However, it wasn’t the worst. I found the saga of Issa, Annabel, and Tommy Brue interesting enough to finish the text. Le Carré moves slowly, almost brutally. The deep introspection allows the reader to feel the heightened alert of the characters, the sneaking about, the carefulness and attention to hiding every move.

Determining Issa’s innocence is compelling enough to finish the book even though I, as a reader, knew this was far from my favorite tale. I was invested, however; I had to see it through.

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I also think le Carré uses clever and precise dialogue effectively throughout the novel, something that, through my research, told me is not always as prevalent in his other work. Dialogue can be tricky; too much dialogue threatens the creative storytelling but not enough makes the reader’s eyes glaze over. Le Carré has an excellent balance of believable, credible dialogue that helps move the story along . . . which is excellent because this novel unfolds at a snail’s pace.

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Accessibility and Exclusivity: Turgenev’s Home of the Gentry

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Listen. I promise Turgenev isn’t that bad. I know you don’t believe me, but if you ever find yourself with a gun to your temple and a command to pick a Russian author that won’t bore you to tears (wait, who wouldn’t cry? There’s a gun to your head), pray it is Turgenev.

Classic texts can be intimidating due to the immense amount of mental attention they require, and anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is totally bogus and not deserving of your trust. Russian texts are particularly challenging, and that’s coming from someone with a pretty hot and heavy Slavic background.

Like a text from any part of the globe, there are a lot of foreign elements at play that the reader must decode, and Ivan Turgenev’s second novel, 1859’s Home of the Gentry, is the perfect definition of this.

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On Grief: Reflections from Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking

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The universe works in very strange ways.

I should learn to trust it perhaps more so than I have permitted myself to in the past, especially when it always seems like people or things show up randomly, totally unannounced, but always when you need them the most.

Such was the case with the sudden appearance of Joan Didion’s 2005 memoir The Year of Magical Thinking within my life.

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