The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton
In the depths of a north Alaskan winter, Yasmin has arrived to confront her husband Matt after receiving a phone call confessing his infidelity. In tow is her ten-year-old daughter, Ruby. They are met with tragic news, however, when it is discovered that Matt’s base, the local village of Anaktue, has been entirely destroyed in a fire. A lengthy search for survivors has yielded only one thing: his wedding ring. Refusing to accept Matt’s death, Yasmin and Ruby set out across the tundra to find and rescue him. What starts as another domestic drama quickly escalates to a race against time across the freezing expanse of Alaska’s Dalton Highway, as a perfect storm, a faceless assailant and an ecological holocaust bear down upon the mother and daughter as they drive alone through one of the most unforgiving landscapes on earth.
Rosamund Lupton’s The Quality of Silence comes after her bestselling Sister, and will surely cement her place as one of Britain’s most popular current authors. While Yasmin’s plan of dragging her child into the freezing unknown after a man who, by all logic, should be dead seems implausible, Lupton more than makes up for it with expertly tense scenes of adventure and peril, intertwined with a tender family drama.
She deftly moves between multiple viewpoints throughout the novel, infusing each with their own unique characteristics. Yasmin reminisces about her time with Matt, hoping desperately to find him alive. Ruby, deaf since birth, has a fascinating inner voice with equal measures of innocence and worldliness, and her disability is portrayed in an original, if sometimes slightly sentimental way. Fans of the TV series Ice Road Truckers will revel in the lengthy passages describing the pair’s journey across the Dalton Highway, though some readers may find the frequent discussions of snow chains, mileage and fuel consumption dull. Without spoiling the climax, the villains of the piece are fairly standard, but the book overall has refreshingly unique and genuine message to impart by its close.
The range of subjects explored, from native cultures, current environmental issues and the ups and downs of family life, means that there is something to resonate with everyone. A perfect read for winter, The Quality of Silence requires a suspension of disbelief but rewards with a constant supply of thrills.
Photo: Charlie Hopkinson
The Quality of Silence is published by Little, Brown at the hardback price of £14.99, for further information visit here.