Between the silences
I both enjoyed and was rather frustrated by Meretha Lindstrom's Days in the history of silence. Days is the story of a long relationship as it plummets into the silence of dementia. It's a gentle novel, part musing on the highs and lows of relationships, part looking at the secrets and attempts to avoid judgement that lie in the lives of most people.
There are moments of real beauty, and of true emotion, but ultimately the novel is about remarkably little. There are many unanswered questions, many moments of wondering what exactly is going on. I guess that in its way this is indeed a true mirror of life, which rarely follows a smooth narrative path. But although Lindstrom should be applauded for following a different road, and there was much that I genuinely enjoyed, at the end of the reading I was left with remarkably little. Even trying to review it a few days later, I find it difficult to say much about it.
At the heart of the novel are two great secrets - the giving up of a child for adoption by the heroine, and the hidden life lived by the hero through the Second World War, who lived an Anne-Frank like existence in an unnamed city somewhere in Central Europe. As Simon's memories start to fade, his memories of the hiding place, the impact of it and the destruction of much of his family, remain crystal-clear.
Some of the secrets in the novel are genuine secrets, some are forgotten memories that burst unexpectedly to the surface, some are unpalatable truths that most people would prefer to keep hidden - the "I'm not racist but....." school of thought, and some are the bits of life that get forgotten when loved ones die, or go into the mental death of dementia
I have had, thankfully, little experience of dementia in my family with the notable exception of my Great-Uncle John. He was my best friend when I was a small child, probably partly because he rather behaved like a small child himself. His crowning moment was when he decided to throw stones through a series of shop windows at midnight in his local town, smiled charmingly at the policemen who arrived shortly afterwards, and swore blind that my father, who was living 30 miles away from my great-uncle, was solely responsible for the plague of glass-smashing that had interrupted a quiet night in a Mid-Wales market town. Of the decline into silence, or even into violence I've, luckily, not been a witness; and I suspect that Lindstrom's Days in the history of silence would probably have far more impact for someone who had been through that experience.
I admire Lindstrom's writing, and would definitely like to read more by her. For me however Days was a gentle read, which ultimately failed to capture me and draw me into the story.