Marianne's Reviews > The Silent Listener

The Silent Listener by Lyn Yeowart
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it was amazing

“We’re all liars… It’s not a question of whether we lie or not, it’s a question of what lies we choose to tell. And to whom.”

The Silent Listener is the first novel by Australian editor and author, Lyn Yeowart. George Henderson, a respected member of the Blackhunt community, is dead. His daughter, Joy, called back after a seventeen-year absence to care for her dying father, might be expected to grieve, but does not. Senior Constable Alex Shepherd, summoned to the scene by George’s doctor, is suspicious: did Joy murder her father? If so, why?

In 1942, after a very short courtship, Gwen marries George Henderson and is brought to his newly-purchased dairy farm at Blackhunt in rural Victoria. From his detailed instructions, his rigid rules, his tight control of every aspect of her life, and his physical abuse, Gwen understands that this marriage will never be what she had expected.

Having no alternative, Gwen works hard to keep George happy and seeks refuge in her chooks and her flowers and the tiny room where she makes bouquets and wreaths to earn a few pounds. Within a decade, Gwen has given birth to a son, Mark, and two daughters, Ruth and Joy. She tries to protect them, but without a clear example of mothering in her own life, is less than successful.

Her children grow up learning to fear their father’s mercurial moods, which might deteriorate from the amount of rain that falls or the size of the butter factory cheque or the vet’s bill, or the perceived breaking of one of his countless arbitrary rules; they live in constant fear of the corporal punishment he seems to relish in dishing out to his “dirty, filthy sinners who are going to rot in Hell”.

George is a pillar of the community: an Elder of the Church, active in Rotary, a member of the High School PTA, the Fire Brigade, and the Shire Council committee, always helpful to neighbours, loved and lauded by all. When nine-year-old Wendy Boscombe goes missing two days after Christmas in 1960, no one in the town of Blackhunt could imagine he would have anything to do with it. But Wendy is never found, and Alex Shepherd is plagued by his failure to find her.

The story plays out over three time periods and is told from three perspectives. Readers are likely to wonder from the start about reliability of Joy’s narrative, and will feel vindicated about certain aspects as the facts are revealed, but there are still plenty of red herrings, distractions and twists to keep the pages turning.

The building tension in the story is sometimes relieved by neighbour Robert Larsen’s amusing word confusions (fire distinguisher, a quick trump call, obliviously, a fine lemming meringue pie), Joy’s insidious little acts of revenge, her musings about God, and the images and feelings that certain words convey to her. The easy acceptance of Gwen’s search of the Death Notices for “good ones” highlights the distortion of normality in this family.

Yeowart’s portrayal of setting and era are faultless, and the mindset of this small Australian rural community in each of the time periods is likely to strike a chord with many. Her character development is particularly skilful, and her depiction of coercive control is chilling. Her cop, if tenacious, is not terribly clever, but he does (sort of) get there in the end. This is a slow burn thriller that richly rewards the reader’s patience. More from Lyn Yeowart will be eagerly anticipated.
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Better Reading Preview and Penguin Australia.
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Reading Progress

December 3, 2020 – Shelved
December 3, 2020 – Shelved as: to-read
December 26, 2020 – Started Reading
December 27, 2020 –
page 53
December 28, 2020 –
page 189
December 29, 2020 –
page 383
December 29, 2020 –
page 473
December 30, 2020 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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message 1: by Sharon (new) - added it

Sharon Excellent review, Marianne!

Jülie ☼♄  Sounds like a good read 👍

message 3: by Lyn (new)

Lyn Yeowart Thanks so much Marianne!! 😀
I'm so glad you enjoyed it...and hopefully you'll be pleased to know the second novel is underway!

Marianne Lyn wrote: "Thanks so much Marianne!! 😀
I'm so glad you enjoyed it...and hopefully you'll be pleased to know the second novel is underway!"

I'm very pleased to know that, Lyn Yeowart

Carolyn Super review Marianne.

Marianne Thanks, Carolyn.

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