Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Silence Once Begun

Silence Once Begun
by Jesse Ball

Genre:  Fiction
Published:  1/28/14 by Knopf Doubleday
Pages:  256
Format:  Hardcover

My rating:
4 out of 5 stars

I picked up this book because I was in the mood for something different.  It definitely fit the description for something different...and I enjoyed it!

Silence Once Begun is a story narrated by Jesse Ball, who writes as an interviewer who is investigating a crime that happened in Japan in the 1970s.  A man named Oda Sotatsu signed a confession, admitting to being responsible for a crime he did not commit, the disappearances of eight people known as the "Narito Disapperances."  Once arrested, Sotatsu refuses to say a word to anyone in his own defense.  So the interviewer takes it upon himself to interview those who knew Sotatsu to find out the truth.

This novel is structured like a series of interviews, and it reads more like a piece of journalism than a novel.  Before each interview, Jesse Ball, the interviewer, writes a note which often gives warning that the person being interviewed is not to be fully trusted for various reasons.  And I was often left wondering if I could even trust the interviewer, as he didn't seem to have an objective voice either!  There are unreliable narrators all over the place here.  Each person who shares their point of view has their own skewed version of the truth. (in this sense, it reminded me a bit of Cartwheel by Jennifer Dubois).   I found it incredibly fascinating to read between the lines of what each person was saying in order to attempt to figure out what really happened.  However, the one person who might be able to shed light on what happened, remains silent throughout the entire novel.  

The first page states "the following work of fiction is partially based on fact."  The cover also alludes to this idea, with the words "A Novel" being scribbled out.  The style of writing is meant to persuade you that this is in fact a story based on truth.  However, after wading through all the lies and misconceptions throughout this book, in the end, I wonder if there was any fact in this story at all.  The interviewer says he has changed names and dates and locations.  How are we to know what is true and what is fiction?  That seems to be a central question through this whole story.  The themes of truth, silence and justice were thought-provoking and made for an intriguing read.

My guess is that this style of writing is not for everyone, as I have read that others found it gimmicky.  It's a bleak and tragic story, so again, it may not be for everyone.  I think I picked this up at just the right time, because it was exactly what I was in the mood to read.  Something unique, something a little dark and something that made me think.  It is a short little book and the interview style makes for quick reading.  

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Sea of Tranquility

The Sea of Tranquility
by Katja Millay

Genre:  Young Adult
Listening Length:  13 hours and 10 minutes
Published:  6/4/13 by Simon and Schuster Audio
Format:  Audiobook

My rating:
5 out of 5 stars 

This story about two teens who are trying to cope after tragedy is dark, raw, intense and not especially uplifting.  It also has a lot of mature content for a teen novel.  But I really loved it and was pulled into the story from the very beginning.  I listened to the audiobook, which is a format I don't use very often as I sometimes have trouble paying attention.  I didn't have any trouble paying attention to this story as it grabbed me and didn't let go until the last word, 13 hours later.

At the beginning of The Sea of Tranquility, Nastya, a 17 year old girl with a mysterious secret, starts attending a new school.  It is apparent early on that she has suffered a severe tragedy, and that she is most definitely not okay.  She doesn't speak to anyone, she dresses like a whore, she has issues with her left hand, and as the novel continues, the reader (or listener, in my case) pieces together bit by bit what has happened to leave her in such a state.  Josh Bennett has also suffered his share of tragedy, as nearly everyone he has ever loved has been taken from him.  

At this point, the story sounds like it will be predictable teen fare:  two teens with tragic pasts find solace in each other's arms and all of their problems suddenly disappear.  And while there are elements of this in The Sea of Tranquility, I felt like the novel was so much deeper.  I was especially pleased with the ending.  I was worried about where the story was going, and that I wouldn't like it.  I thought either everything would be wrapped up in a perfect little bow, or everyone would be left wallowing in their misery.  Somehow, Katja Millay managed to find a middle ground, providing an ending that was both satisfactory and realistic.