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A History of Silence: a memoir

3.33  ·  Rating details ·  147 ratings  ·  38 reviews
As the New Zealand city of Christchurch lies in ruins after the catastrophic earthquake of February 2011, Lloyd Jones begins a search for his past, a search that takes him through childhood memories of puzzling events to Pembroke Dock in Wales, and finally to the discovery of a devastating court transcript.

On this extraordinary journey, he pieces together the fragments of
Paperback, 273 pages
Published September 1st 2013 by Text Publishing (first published August 1st 2013)
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3.33  · 
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 ·  147 ratings  ·  38 reviews

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Jan 10, 2016 rated it liked it
“There might have been more to tell if more had been shared, if questions had been asked, if information had been offered and passed along at the moment it lit up in memory. But the family trait was silence. Great wreaths of it were wound around our lives and stuffed in the windows and hallway of our parents’ house, and that is what was absorbed, that and, speaking for myself, a finely tuned ability to gauge the air in the room which at any moment might explode with the slam of a door”

A History
Sep 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Lloyd Jones is a wordsmith, and that's no less evident in this memoir than it is in his fiction. Curiously, the book seems distant in ways that Jones' fiction is not, but perhaps it's a necessary distance. This is a very personal tale - a search by Jones to find out the truth about his parents, one of whom grew up in an orphanage, and one of whom was 'given away' (adopted) at the age of four. It's a book about the secrets held within families, and the search for identity - that of our ancestors, ...more
Jan 28, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gentle wafflings form a good portion of this book. They're not unpleasant - but mostly, they're not as interesting as they need to be if they are to be a book, rather than a lovely chat over a cuppa.
Around part 5 of 6, things got spicy and intriguing - for a while. I realise some background setting needed to be established prior, but it was hard hanging on for so long. The earthquake themes (both actual and comparative) were apt, but pushed a tad hard.
It took me a while to read through this book
Lyn Elliott
Jul 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Jones writes prose like a poet. His imagery is stunning from first to last.
The opening lines are: 'Night-time. The city is strung out like sea bloom. No lapping sounds. Just a volume of events that rocks inside me.'
Immediately you know you are in for a skin-prickling journey. Jones keeps his grip firm throughout, whether he is writing about the city and suburbs of Christcurch, built on drained swamp that shook and swirled into collapse in the great earthquake of February 2011, or his reluctant l
Nov 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing

I had the most peculiar reaction to reading this memoir by the very highly regarded Lloyd Jones. For the first five years of my life I lived 1.7kms in one direction from where the author was living out his childhood, and for the next 15 years I lived 1.7kms in the other direction. Our paths never crossed, (he is a few years older), but everything he writes about the place of Lower Hutt, and the sense of place is very strong in this book, had a startling ri
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is in the rarified genre of reluctant memoirs. As a man who grew up without grandparents, thinking that was something for other people, Jones needed a violent, literally earth-shaking reason to start looking into his family's past. I love the way Jones sees metaphors in everything around him, constantly writing the world. He sees a woman gardening against the backdrop of a destroyed city and asks whether we are solving the right problems as we go about our lives. He learns of the liqui ...more
This was part of my I don't read enough New Zealand books, so I am reading more New Zealand books, kick. There are a few stretched metaphors in this memoir. I am still not sure how the 2011 Christchurch earthquake has to do with Lloyd Jones family Wellington family history, other than earthquake sympathy and a gorgeously imaged if thinly spread metaphor of weak foundations.

But I do have admit, on the 22 February 2011 there were many kiwi expats who asked a delicate question, there's been an eart
Colin Higgins
Sep 29, 2013 rated it liked it
I did quite like this I got nearer the end. The first part seemed to be all over the place, and I didn't rally have something to grab on to. The weaving in of the Christchurch earthquake was a bit distracting. While I get the metaphor, I don't think it worked that well. The book was most interesting in dealing with his mother's story.
Matthew Oliver
Jan 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Mixed feelings about this book. Early life and family descriptions, especially of his parents' and grandparents' lives are great but not sure what the Christchurch connection is. Nor does it hang together; it's a collection of memories and vignettes more than anything.
Apr 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written in typical Lloyd Jones style. Some parts are so lovely you almost want to write them down. Not that this is a beautiful story though; it is a memoir tinged with angst and regret for the life that his mother didn't get, given away as a child. Worth reading.
Melanie Lindstrom
Mar 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
Interesting family story, but I found I really had to concentrate to keep up with the prose and the leaps between the modern, past and Christchurch earthquake scenarios.
Jenny Esots
Oct 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Lloyd Jones is following his bloodline.
What gets left behind? What gets hidden?
In this review I refer to the author by his first name, Lloyd. As I somehow feel I have come to know him.
Why does Lloyd make this journey into his past history at this time in his life?
The other side of fifty, more questions about mortality, purpose, searching for answers that remained out of sight. Beginning to wonder, having your own children. Remembrances.
Lloyd delves into why we retain the things we do. In the pro
Aug 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Author Lloyd Jones is sitting in his Cuba Street flat in Wellington, New Zealand, in 2011 when a massive earthquake strikes the city of Christchurch. Five weeks later he flies to Christchurch to see and write about the devastation and tremendous losses the city has suffered. Watching stonemasons dismantling the Cathedral stone by stone to put it back together triggers a desire in Jones to investigate (or dismantle) and reassemble his own family history, of which he knows almost nothing.

This is t
Alan Wightman
Sep 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
While walking the streets of Christchurch following the 2011 earthquakes, Lloyd Jones is struck by the hidden nature of things - that these seismic faults, this swampy foundation of the city, have only now been revealed. And surprisingly this leads him to consider his family, their own reluctance to reveal the past, their absence of history, their history of silence.

And so, Mr Jones goes digging into his family's past, and particularly the biography of his grandparents, none of whom he has met.
Nov 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nz-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
a bit of a mashup here, with automemoir-family mystery and genealogy-horrible earth quakes in new zealand 2010-2011-horrors of euro colonization on nz environments/fauna-meditations on travel and time erasing and creating "self"-being an artist-being a human slash family.
so lots going on and jones skips like malicious capricious wind here and there inside all things strings of thought.
his novel mr pip Mister Pip is devastatingly beautiful and true, and so is this thought experiment in destructio
Apr 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Jones is a beautiful writer. His intermingling of the Christchurch earthquake and his decision to research his family history are intertwined meaningfully. The earthquake is almost real to the reader and the reader is glad for the insight. His quest for the reason his mother sat for what seemed like hours in her car with her young son in the back seat, looking at a house waiting for a figure to come out so she could have a glimpse of it, is the saddest scene. The search is almost like a mystery ...more
Sep 14, 2013 rated it liked it
So far I'm giving it a 3.8 but will wait until the end to see if the link about hidden things works. ( Family secrets compared with what is hidden or covered up after the Christchurch earthquakes.)
Certainly the details of the quake will be interesting to look back on, and I love the writing. I just sighed with relief as the book began, my last read while Entertaining must have left me with some doubts about the polish of the author's writing!
Kate Wilson
Jul 20, 2014 rated it did not like it
I'm sorry but this book totally did my head in! I kept thinking it has to be a 100 pager ( when it takes a 100 pages to get going) then a 200 pager! Nup! If you can get through that far keep going - the last 40 or so are readable .... Only persevered as it was a book club book - after 9 years this was there first time ever I was the only one to finish the book and the other 6 were not embarrassed to say they just couldn't do it!
Aug 05, 2014 rated it it was ok
Lloyd Jones takes a break from his usual fiction and delves into his own family history. He uses the Christchurch earthquake as a background for the shaking and unearthing of his search.

Unless you are a real Lloyd Jones fan I can't really see the appeal of this book, I was interested to see if there were any interesting insights to the earthquake that he might have documented, but on all fronts I did not find this an appealing or interesting read.
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
It was ok. I'd give it 2 1/2 stars. It rambled a bit from one topic to another and I totally skipped the Christchurch bits which seemed irrelevant. Some interesting family history, if a little poetic - so much so that I just wished he got on with it. Not something I would have picked up to read but it was given to me, so I did my duty.
Nov 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Lloyd Jones' writing.It is vigorous and original. Here it is extra poignant as he traces his families' history and uncovers the secrets that shape his parents' lives. Interspersed with this history are his visits to damaged Christchurch after the quakes.
The book has extra significance to me as I know the area he grew up in and even went to school with his dynamic brother Bob Jones.
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Brilliant memoir about Jones discovering his family history at the time of the Christchurch earthquake. Reminded me in some ways of Terry Tempest-Williams Refuge, which makes similar connections between natural and personal cataclysm.
Jan 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Beautiful writing, poetic, but not very... accessible. The christchurch earthquake prompts Jones to unearth some family secrets. Maud's story is sad and would make a good novel.
Caroline Barron_Author
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
"It was embarrassing to meet her first up like this. I felt even oddly implicated - she is my grandmother after all. We may not have set eyes on one another but she is partly responsible for the genes spilling around inside me, and so I found myself looking for and finding traces of recognition. . ." - p208
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookclub
Bit messy to read - perhaps he was intending to be clever weaving exploring the effects of the Christchurch earthquake with exploring his own family history? I got lost and possibly not interested in his family scandals and didn’t finish the book.
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
A meandering chronicle with (apparent) links between the Christchurch 2011 earthquake and the writer's mother and grandmother. Not up to Lloyd Jones' previous offerings.
Feb 07, 2014 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book, which is really about the search for Lloyd's whakapapa (geneology). I don't quite understand how the Christchurch earthquakes are part of this story though - he has a sympathetic perspective on the earthquakes which is good to read as one who experienced them personally. But it felt like he started out to write a story about the earthquakes but along the way found the one about his own family more interesting (and fair enough, it is an interesting story) but still felt he ha ...more
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
brilliant writing, looping together loss of family history, attention to the details of life, meaning of lives, history itself, Pleny, stories of lives from great literature, the Christchurch earthquake, and biography. What seems as odd ramblings, strangely gets more and more tightly told till the mists of time disappear. And on a personal note, Jones captures the so-close feelings of the 2011 earthquakes we lived through, with perspective avoiding the tears.
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Lloyd Jones was born in 1955 in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, a place which has become a frequent setting and subject for his subsequent works of fiction. He studied at Victoria University, and has worked as a journalist and consultant as well as a writer. His recent novels are: Biografi (1993); Choo Woo (1998); Here At The End of the World We Learn to Dance (2002); Paint Your Wife (2004);and Mister Pi ...more