The Pocket Book club kicked off 2023 with The Silence of Water by Sharron Booth.
We like to theme our food with a book’s contents but there is not much food in this book. Lots of alcohol. Not much food. The best we could do was marmalade sandwiches (minus the beach sand).
The Silence of Water plaits together three generations of the Salt family and jumps in and out of their lives and back and forth in time and place.
We first meet tailor Edwin Salt in 1840 in Lichfield, excited about the railway coming to town and uninterested in being the son of Salt and Son Tailors. He’s smart enough to become an excise man and escape the family business.
The second generation focuses on Agnes Salt, the daughter of Edwin. We are in Western Australia now, and the revealing of Edwin’s journey to Australia is one of the slow-burn secrets driving the plot. Most curious about these secrets is the third-generation, daughter of Agnes and granddaughter of Edwin, the cheeky little Fan (Frances). Fan’s life is disrupted when she moves from her beloved ocean in South Australia to Freemantle and meets her grumpy, sick alcoholic grandfather.
Book club members had different reactions to this book. On the one hand, an appreciation and general agreement that it was a good story, However, some were confused jumping from character to character and between time periods. They wanted a family tree!
Me, I was not confused, but somewhat ambivalent. A word I admit I stole from someone else’s reaction to Silence of Water. However, that person’s ambivalence dissipated on discovering the Salt family – at least the bare bones of their existence and when and where they were – are real. Were real.
Admiring the research was not enough to shake off my ambivalence and another member’s comment ‘what was the point?’ resonates. The prose distances me from the characters. I did not experience the story from the characters’ point of view and did not feel emotionally attached to their lives, curious maybe, but a bit ‘whatever’. No doubt this is a matter of personal preference. Here is a paragraph I quite liked:
Like other jails, the convict establishment smelled of piss. It kicked men out of their hammocks and made them bath twice a week whether they needed it or not. It fed its men lumpy porridge and salted beef and sometimes the slower men went hungry. It shoved its men to their knees on Sundays, Catholics on one side and protesants on the other and guards with their eyes on men not God.Sharron Booth, The Silence of Water
Nice, a clever description, but distant. Not how the character experiences the depravations.
The good thing about this book, if you have to choose a matching cunttail, is the abundance of alcohol. Whiskey, rum, gin… We named our cunttail ‘The Bloody Silence’.
The Pocket Bookclub raged against a book of literary cocktails that only included quotes from men. We have embarked on a cunttail project, inventing a cunttail for every book we read this year. We are making a literary cunttail book!
Literary Cunttails 2022 is hand drawn by Miriama and includes every recipe. Get a free copy.