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The Silent Land by Graham Joyce
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The Silent Land (original 2010; edition 2012)

by Graham Joyce

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2753241,194 (3.72)36
Member:ariaa03
Title:The Silent Land
Authors:Graham Joyce
Info:Anchor (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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The Silent Land by Graham Joyce (2010)

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This is all quite familiar territory - a couple are on holiday skiing in the French Pyrenees and are caught up in an avalanche. They manage to extricate themselves, but when they return to their hotel, everywhere is deserted and natural processes seem to have stopped. It's not too hard to guess what's going on here, and of course we are right. As the days go by, the couple find they are unable to leave the resort village and the hotel, and it slowly dawns on them just why this is. As Douglas Adams once said, "It's not so much an afterlife, more an aprés-vie."

Others who have reviewed this book have expressed themselves disappointed, because it's clichéd, or because they didn't get the level of suspense they'd been led to expect, or the horror/supernatural elements in the story were muted. Well, perhaps some of that was the fault of the publishers, packaging the book for a certain audience. And perhaps Joyce was writing the book with an entirely different objective in mind.

The characters are fairly typical British thirty-somethings, and seem quite well-drawn to me. (Yes, readers - I said well-drawn. I've met plenty of people not unlike this couple.) And their predicament is contrasted with other instances of loss in each of their lives - the loss of parents, of colleagues, or of pets. I had the feeling that much of this drew on experiences that Joyce had heard related from others, because the reactions of these ancillary characters seemed all too human.

The visions that Zoe, the female character, experiences are unsettling, and as they become more and more personal they get more chilling, despite - or possibly because - of their simplicity.

Perhaps I'm reading more into this book than others, because I read it just two weeks after Joyce's own death at the terribly early age of 59; and because I knew the author from many years ago and so have always followed his career with interest. For me, this was a poignant read, yet the sense of acceptance and working through of the emotions about love and loss was very real. Graham's last blog post was on these subjects (http://www.grahamjoyce.co.uk/?p=409), and having read that, I am sure I saw a precursor of it in The Silent Land. ( )
  RobertDay | Sep 29, 2014 |
Zoe and Jake have treated themselves to a skiing holiday at a resort village on the slopes of Chamonix and had got up and headed out early to have some alone time on the mountain. Unfortunately they hadn't picked the best moment as they find themselves unsuccessfully outrunning an avalanche. Having seemingly survived with only minor ailments they make there way down to the village only to find the place entirely deserted. No sign of any other living thing at all. Presuming they have evacuated in anticipation of worse to come the couple decide they need to do the same to escape the anticipated danger. But all their attempts to leave are thwarted and they always find themselves somehow back at the deserted village. Having no clue as to what's happening they decide to make the best of things and hope that an answer or rescue arrives some time soon. They set about enjoying all that the resort has to offer but then realisation sets in that things are a little off. Food that's been left out hasn't spoiled, candles will burn but not melt and then the visions start. Perhaps they didn't survive that avalanche after all and this is what comes after!

While it's not too difficult to guess where the story is heading nor to see the inevitable ending that's not what this book is about. It's the nature of life, love and the shared existence of two people involved that want to be explored here. The description and place setting are beautifully drawn out and evocative as the situation descends towards the creepier end of the spectrum. Despite the foreshadowing of the ending it still holds enough of an emotional impact to cause a lump in my throat. ( )
  AHS-Wolfy | Sep 12, 2014 |
The fact that I've never heard of any of the books, or even any of the authors, linked with this one in Library Thing Recommendations, should have told me something: This is not my kind of book.

I'm always willing to try a new genre, read something that makes me uncomfortable, or listen to opposing points of view. But it has to be well-written, and this one is not. After only a few pages I found myself looking back to the front of the book to see if a translator was credited, but apparently the author wrote in English. Poor choice of words, choppy sentences, paragraphs that don't hold together or flow into the next... all detract from the story.

Worst of all, the two characters give the reader nothing to generate strong feelings. They aren't very likable, yet aren't detestable either. They carom from sweet and sentimental to shallow, crude, and dishonest, but overall they are completely unrealistic and just not believable.

And the story. I wondered early on if this was meant to be suspenseful or possibly a satire of suspense. It is not suspenseful at all. Within a very few pages I made a comment to myself about the probable "surprise ending" coming in a few hundred pages, and as I progressed my certainty grew. There was no "surprise ending," at least not in anyone's mind except maybe the author's.

SPOILER ALERT: Similar early awareness came to me when I watched a Bruce Willis movie in which he was shot in the chest, and later a child says to him "I see dead people." My immediate comment was "And you're one of them."

The cover of the hardback book is wonderful! The hard cover is white with sparse gray/black graphics, and the dust jacket is translucent (almost like parchment) with part of the design/text on it. The whole effect is snowy and puzzling. I wish the book had been as good. ( )
  SharronA | Jun 8, 2014 |
Joyce's novel is sometimes spooky, sometimes strange, sometimes joyful, sometimes hopeful, and ultimately absolutely devastatingly beautiful. ( )
  JessicaReadsThings | Nov 12, 2013 |
My review is up here—notable, I feel, for the fact that the author commented favorably on how I got it, even though I never quite came out and said I liked it. ( )
  lisapeet | Jul 1, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Graham Joyceprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lee, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
She almost thought she could die in that place, and happily...

Zoe and Jake are caught in an avalanche during a skiing holiday in the French Pyrenees. They struggle back to their village only to find it deserted. As the days go by, they wait for rescue, they try to leave. But each time they find themselves back in the village, with the entire resort to themselves.

Then come the visions and the dreams, and the glimpses of familiar figures out in the snow.

And the realization that perhaps no one could have survived the avalanche...

The Silent Land is a brooding and tender look at love and whether it can survive the greatest challenge we will ever face.

Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385533802, Hardcover)

Award-winning novelist and cult favorite Graham Joyce transports readers to a mysterious world of isolation and fear with a hypnotically dark story about a young couple trapped by an avalanche in the remote French Pyrenees. . . a daring and powerful novel about love, loss, and rebirth.

In the French Pyrenees, a young married couple is buried under a flash avalanche while skiing. Miraculously, Jake and Zoe dig their way out from under the snow—only to discover the world they knew has been overtaken by an eerie and absolute silence. Their hotel is devoid of another living soul. Cell phones and land lines are cut off. An evacuation as sudden and thorough as this leaves Jake and Zoe to face a terrifying situation alone. They are trapped by the storm, completely isolated, with another catastrophic avalanche threatening to bury them alive . . . again. And as the couple begin to witness unset­tling events neither one can ignore, they are forced to con­front a frightening truth about the silent land they now inhabit.

Award-winning author Graham Joyce has written a mysteri­ous masterpiece, a tour de force that will thrill fans of Peter Straub and the hit television show Lost.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:50:39 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Buried under a flash avalanche while skiing, young married couple Jake and Zoe miraculously dig their way out only to discover themselves alone in an eerily silent, evacuated region and unable to contact the outside world.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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